“Iisang Dagat” (One Sea), a music video released on April 23 by the Chinese embassy in Manila, which depicts the Philippines and China’s so-called partnership as “friendly neighbors across the sea” drew widespread anger among Filipino internet users.
The music video, which has an indirect reference to the West Philippine Sea and is apparently dedicated to COVID-19 frontline workers, immediately garnered a huge number of dislikes.
As of this writing, it has 213,000 dislikes compared to just 3,700 likes.
More so, the Chinese embassy noted that the song, written by Ambassador H.E. Huang Xilian, reflects both countries, “demonstrating a new era partnership of mutual support during trying times and the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind advocated by the Chinese President Xi Jinping.”
“Just as the lyric goes, as friendly neighbors across the sea, China and the Philippines will continue to join hands and make every effort to overcome the COVID-19 at the earliest!” it added.
The song, performed by Chinese diplomat Xia Wenxin from the embassy and several Filipino and Chinese celebrities, was released two days after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that the Philippines lodged two diplomatic protests against China.
The reason being that China-owned People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in the Kalayaan Island Group on February 17 and Beijing’s declaration that parts of Philippine territory are part of Hainan province — “both violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty.”
“The Philippine government strongly protests the establishment of the so-called districts of ‘Nansha’ and ‘Xisha’ under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared ‘Sansha City’ announced on April 18, 2020, by the People’s Republic of China,” an excerpt from the statement released by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs reads.
Apart from territorial disputes, Chinese-owned mining operations in Eastern Samar province continue to operate despite community resistance and the COVID-19 lockdown.
Moreover, the ongoing expansion of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), often associated with various social ills like corruption, organized crime, and labor abuses, remain controversial because of massive reports that the industry provides minimal economic benefits to the country.
Mostly Chinese-owned, POGOs, which cater to Chinese online gamers, allegedly enjoy a preferential treatment from the Duterte government, in which the Philippine Chief executive was claiming that POGO is “clean.”
To some, the Chinese diplomats’ “Iisang Dagat” is insincere and malicious, an attempt to divert public attention from China’s aggressive behavior towards the Philippines. Some even believe that Chinese diplomats are only seeking to downplay the maritime dispute over the South China Sea by highlighting the supposed unity of the two governments in battling COVID-19.
China’s COVID-19 assistance to the country is even viewed not just with suspicion, but also with contempt.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario previously said that China’s recent movements involving the disputed waters show that it has been “relentless in exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic” to pursue its “illegal and expansive claims” in the South China Sea.
A 2016 ruling by a Hague-based arbitral tribunal backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration voided China’s sweeping claims over virtually the entire South China Sea based on so-called historical rights, but Beijing continues to reject this decision.
President Rodrigo Duterte has nurtured ties with China, despite its continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea.