MANILA, Philippines – Where does the Filipino-Chinese community stand in the ongoing tension between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal?
Born with Chinese ancestry but raised in the Philippines, Filipino-Chinese include some of the country's richest businessmen like Henry Sy and Lucio Tan. While comprising only 1.5% of the population, the Philippines' ethnic Chinese community wields significant influence in various spheres.
Filipino-Chinese organizations, however, have not publicly spoken about the standoff between the two countries that has entered its second month.
Rappler visited the Filipino-Chinese community in Binondo, Manila to get their side on the issue. A common response from them is hope that the tension would not reach a bloody conclusion.
'No to war'
“Puwede naman maidaan sa magandang usapan para 'di na umabot sa giyera,” said Filipino-Chinese businessman Manuel Cruz. (We can settle this through diplomatic talks to avoid war.)
Cruz, who was born and raised in the Philippines, said he supports the Philippines in its claims over Scarborough Shoal. He said the shoal, which is located in the potentially oil-rich South China Sea, can help the country's economy.
“Chinese din ako pero 'di naman puwedeng angkinin ng China ang nasa South China Sea,” Cruz added. (I am also Chinese but I don't think China should claim all that's in the South China Sea.)
Tony (not his real name), for his part, prefers to take a neutral position. “China is part of our ancestry but the Philippines is our home,” he explained.
“If Scarborough will go to the Philippines, then we’re happy. If it goes to China, we’re happy too – as long as everything will be done in a diplomatic manner,” Tony said.
Meanwhile, Filipino-Chinese citizen Jess (not his real name) said the Scarborough Shoal standoff involves more than two countries. “It's actually China versus the United States, let's face it,” he said, reflecting the view that the Scarborough Shoal standoff could be part of the “US geopolitical game against China.”
In a social media conversation moderated by Rappler, Filipino-Chinese netizens also expressed support for the Philippines' Scarborough Shoal claim.
[ View the story "How do Chinoys feel about China's Scarborough claim?" on Storify ]
Some Filipinos, however, want a louder voice from Filipino-Chinese on this issue.
In a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Peter Claver dared Filipino-Chinese community leaders, particularly human rights advocate Teresita Ang See, to be vocal in supporting the Philippine claim.
“The nation expects Ang-See to support the Philippine claim to Scarborough Shoal. (After) all she is a Filipino citizen and has lived in the Philippines most of her life or, perhaps, was even born here,” Claver said in his letter to the editor titled, “Why is Teresita Ang-See Silent on PH-China Row?”
Teresita Ang See is now on an out-of-town engagement, her staff told Rappler, and is expected to give her take on the matter soon.
In another letter to the Inquirer, Anita Sonti called on all the Chinese and Filipino-Chinese “to join us and ask their mother country to resolve the issue once and for all.”
“We have treated our Chinese compatriots with love and respect, and they have been part of our culture, our lives – our ties and roots going back to centuries,” Sonti said.
Inquirer letter-writer Daniel Ong, however, said calls for a louder Filipino-Chinese voice point to certain misconceptions.
Ong described the idea of a Chinese community as “more of an illusion than reality, considering the huge gaps between the old and young generations, and between long-time residents and new immigrants, and the fact that many who are perceived by others as Chinese do not even see themselves as Chinese.”
Ong also questioned Sonti's use of the pronoun “us” in her appeal to “ask their mother country to resolve the issue.”
“It is hard to see how China is necessarily the 'mother country' of Chinoys, especially those who only have a distant Chinese forebear. If a person has one great-grandparent who hailed from China – out of 8 great-grandparents – why should his or her 'mother country' necessarily be China?"
China is not likely to extend preferential treatment to Filipino-Chinese, Ong added. “In the view of the Chinese government, (Chinoys) are citizens of a foreign state, whom it has no obligation to listen to or to protect,” he said. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com
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