By Marjaleen Ramos, Argyll Geducos, and Alexandria San Juan
Red banners with the words “Welcome to the Philippines, province of China” that have sprouted in some parts of Metro Manila on Thursday are the handiwork of the enemies of the government, Malacanang said.
The red tarpaulins were seen hanging from several footbridges on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City, on the southbound lane of C5, and near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City in clear violation of city and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) ordinances.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said enemies of the government were behind the banners.
“It’s absurd and I’m sure it’s the enemies of the government behind it. So, to them: try again. you need a better gimmick than that,” he said.
The Palace official also said that there’s no truth to the message that the tarpaulins are trying to convey.
“We continue to assert our sovereignty and sovereign rights but we have decided to move on issues which are non-controversial because we know the final resolution, particularly on the issue of sovereignty on the disputed islands will take many many many many years to resolve since this was not a subject of the arbitral ruling that we won two years ago,” he added.
Roque said that as for the sake of freedom of speech, Malacañang will not be doing something about the tarpaulins.
“The Quezon City government is directing its Department of Public Order and Safety and Parks Department as well as concerned barangays to take down all tarpaulin signs that say that the Philippines is a province of China,” the QC Public Affairs Department said, adding that the tarpaulins were illegally posted.
The MMDA also started taking down the said posters in other parts of Metro Manila.
MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago confirmed that there are at least 2,400 Chinese delegates from a private company staying in the country for an incentive tour.
However, the Tourism Promotion Board and the private company denied they were the ones who posted the tarpaulins.
“I think this is more of a wrong welcoming remark,” Pialago said.
She added that the MMDA also did not give the permits for the tarpaulins to be posted.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who saw a similar tarpaulin in Philcoa, asked the government to take down the banner immediately as it reflects the government’s approach to the dispute.
“Not funny. On this day, July 12, we commemorate our victory in Philippines v China,” said Hilbay, who led the Philippines’ legal panel that protested China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“Whatever the motives may be, it’s not funny, especially on this particular day,” Hilbay said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea.
Just recently, President Rodrigo Duterte joked that he wants the Philippines to be a province of China. “Gusto ninyo gawain na lang ninyo kaming province, Fujian pati Philippine province of China, eh ‘di wala tayong problema.”