Andreas De la Cruz is a forty year old fisherman from Masinloc, Zambales and he has a story of triumph and loss to tell and all of it is due to the obsession of powerful nations to control and dominate and occupy the lands and seas of other smaller nations.
A few months ago Andreas set out to the rich fishing grounds of Scarborough shoal, about 60 kilometers from the beach where he lives in a small house with his wife and three children on the edge of the West Philippine Sea. His boat, yellow and white with green outriggers made of bamboo poles tied together with nylon cut through the ocean swell by a the noisy power of the motor.
The reef is well within the 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Andres told us that he and his father and grandfather and his ancestors fished off the reef even in primitive canoes with sails for generations. He has had a good healthy life from fishing the reef and as prices and demand for good fish rose so did his earnings. He was able to send his children to a good school on his earnings. They rose out of poverty and have more secure better lives. But that came to an end one tragic day over two years ago
When Andreas and his neighbor came to their customary fishing ground, they saw, a big naval vessel ahead of them and were hailed over a loudspeaker to stop and turn around as they were illegally entering the waters of China.
Andreas was shocked, he said, it was like an invasion of the Philippines. The Chinese navy had captured the shoal which is like a submerged coral island. He evaded the naval cutter that tried to get close and swamp his little motorized banka boat. He swung around to pass it and headed toward the shoal with the ship coming after him. Then he made a fast tight turn and ran past it before it could make a slow wide turn and he was far away. The small “naval battle” was over with Andreas and his little Philippine flag the victor.
Darkness saved him and being a Filipino of courage with Juanito his helper they lowered the nets near the submerged shoal. He did not chance to light the gas lamp to attract them yet he soon had a big catch. The other fishing boats had apparently turned back when confronted by the Chinese Cutter and the ocean was his. In triumph he arrived back with a full load to the amazement of the village.
The villagers were now marginalized, cut-off from their source of livelihood and faced ruin and poverty. That’s how the power of great nations crush their smaller weaker neighbors.
The once impoverished and weak communist China was defeated by the capitalist juggernaut and decided if China can’t beat them then let China join them. And so China did. It has to its credit and praise lifted hundreds of millions of starving Chinese from dire poverty in just thirty years or so. Today it is a thriving capitalistic economic power ruled by one party, the communist. What a contradiction in terms and in reality.
Like the Western capitalist empires of the past and present that oppress and exploit the poorer nations in the world through multinational corporations, China makes poverty and inequality grow. These multinationals work through organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). They have been stealing the natural resources of poorer nations for a hundred years. China is now doing the same in the West Philippine Sea and beyond. It is developing into a superpower with global interests and hungry for raw materials to satisfy its insatiable desires for unlimited growth.
Andreas is just one of the millions that have been marginalized by capitalist greed. Many more suffer worse by the doing of Western liberal capitalism that China once condemned. China is not interested so much in the fish of the Southern Oceans but the oil and minerals below the ocean floor.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting of 21 heads of states was held in Manila last week. It drew thousands of protesters demanding true fairness and an end to the land grabbing of the Philippines by China and the exclusion of the poor from the Western dominated world economy.
We have at last a prophetic fearless Pope Francis. He is giving voice to the voiceless. In Bolivia last year he made a powerful statement that ought to have been repeated at the APEC meeting.
He told the thousands of the poor that he stood with them in their demands for justice and social and economic inclusion.
“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” the Pope Francis told the cheering crowds referring to the unjust globalization of the economic system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.” He went on to say:
“This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he said.
Millions of hungry people are left out of a just and fair world and find it intolerable to live with such poverty and to be denied a life of dignity and purpose and justice. They grow up with hatred and anger and release it through violence and terrorism and barbarity.
It is only when there is an end to global injustice and greed and when fairness and dignity and human rights are fully respected will there be peace and true prosperity.