Manila (AsiaNews / CBCP) - In an effort to ease tensions in the South China Sea, the theater of a long dispute between Manila, Hanoi and Beijing for control of the islands and of the sections, the Philippine Church has launched a day of prayer.
Thousands of young people, students and others, throughout the province of Palawan, west of the archipelago, have responded to the call made by the bishop and will meet on December 2 for this special event of peace. The aim of the participants is that governments, with the help of prayer, seek political and diplomatic avenues "for the resolution of disputes."
The event will be held in the sports hall of the city of Puerto Princesa. The organizers emphasize that it is an important event in the interests of peace, because the tensions in the region continue to grow and leading to fear of a conflict that is not only economic. Interviewed by Radio Veritas the local bishop Msgr. Pedro Arigo says that "we will be praying the Rosary," and the goal is to gather "at least 6 thousand young people" among high school and university students.
The prelate added that the meeting will also serve to provide additional information about the reasons of the ongoing tensions in the region and to clarify the plots and the claims of each government on disputed territories (South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea). People need to feel involved in the issue, added the bishop, and "intensify our prayer, so we never lose hope [in peace]."
As early as last July the Filipino bishops had launched an "Oratio Imperata" for peace in the South China Sea. Without going into the merits of international arbitration promoted by the government to resolve the dispute, the president of the Episcopal Conference on the occasion recalled that it is the duty of the faithful to pray to ease the increasingly tense relations between the Philippines and China.
In recent days, Manila has signed a series of agreements with Taipei and Tokyo, aimed at containing Chinese expansionism and while strengthening the anti-Beijing axis in the Asia-Pacific.
Vietnam and the Philippines have been increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas. The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. In recent months, China has used various political, economic and diplomatic means to hamper non-Chinese vessels from fishing or moving through the disputed waters.
For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line is both "illegal" and "irrational". Anyone with a hegemonic sway over the region would have a strategic advantage, in terms of seabed (oil and gas) development, but also in trade since two thirds of the world's maritime trade transit through it.