“In 1996, President Fidel Ramos said Apec will bring development, and will make us a Tiger Economy. Now, we can’t even meow like a kitten.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – A small contingent of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao was forced to hold their protest against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit by the gates of the Baclaran Church in Parañaque City, after they were barred from leaving their camp by a police barricade at past 6 a.m., today, Nov. 19.
Hundreds of anti-riot police men, who had been guarding the church gates since Saturday evening, were even augmented by hundreds of police trainees, and two fire trucks – a force more than double that of the Lumád protesters’ 300.
The front of Baclaran church facing Roxas Boulevard had earlier been blocked by a long row of container vans and concrete barriers, covered with billboard-sized tarpaulins, to hide the protest camp from the passing Apec delegates.
The ringing of the Baclaran Church bells at 6 a.m. signaled the exit march of the protesters, but the police barricade was already in formation. There was a few minutes of pushing, protesters’ hands and bodies against the police shields, and some protesters incurred minor injuries.
But the blockade was no setback for the Mindanao activists, who had contingencies for times like these.
“What the police here didn’t know, many of our comrades have already joined the main body of protesters, and they are already marching towards Taft Avenue,” Jong Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka, announced to the crowd at around 8:00 a.m., as he stood on a bus which served as the stage for speakers.
The night before, the protesters already hung a “Junk Apec” tarpaulin on the bell tower, the letters clearly visible from across the road. This morning, they released dozens of red, helium balloons, which carried a “Junk Apec” sign.
The police then brought in large speakers and played loud music in front of the church, to drown out the protesters. The Lumád answered with their pangiyaki (shoutout), a noise barrage of clanging metals, and of course, dancing.
“In 1996, President Fidel Ramos said Apec will bring development, and will make us a Tiger Economy. Now, we can’t even meow like a kitten,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
Zarate said the country remains impoverished, two decades after it hosted an Apec summit. The country used to be a rice exporter, but because of the trade impositions, the country subsidizes rice importations, instead of production.
“Now, because of Apec, even the poor man’s fare, munggos (mung bean) is imported. Even
peanuts,” Zarate said.
He said that the country used to have a manufacturing industry, and exports products such as textile. But now, the country only exports labor, with six million Filipinos leaving to work abroad daily, and accepting jobs even in conflict-torn countries.
He said the Aquino administration criminalizes critics and activists, and violates the people’s freedom of expression. “They gave no respect for the church grounds, and repressed a simple public assembly, just to please his foreign guests.”
“Walay kaayuhan na gidala ang Apec (Apec brought nothing good),” Zarate said in Cebuano.
The protesters cheerfully ended their protest with dancing, as they announced news that thousands of other protesters were marching along Buendia avenue, Manila, headed for the summit venue along Roxas Boulevard.