Fil-Am Rolando Lavarro, Jersey City Councilman-at-Large, speaks by City Hall’s steps in Jersey City at a rally staged for #StopAsianHateJC on April 10, 2021. Bergenfield Mayor Fil-Am Arvin Amatorio and several Jersey City Council members and local officials from neighboring towns also spoke at the rally attended by Filipino Americans. | Photo by Amira Allahh via Facebook
I was extremely pleased to learn that several Filipino-Americans and Filipino American associations have reached out to us at the Philippine embassy in Washington, DC, wanting to help our country and our fellow Filipinos with the critical COVID-19 situation in our country. Additionally, I had a phone conversation with boxing champ Senator Manny Pacquiao, the other night, who offered to help in whatever way he can.
For the first time in years, Fil-Am communities and associations band together – writing to their local congressmen and senators in their respective communities to appeal for US-made vaccines to be delivered early to the Philippines. Even if many Fil-Am associations are so diverse in their political beliefs and persuasions, they are at least one in purpose this time.
“For the first time in years, Fil-Am communities and associations band together – writing to their local congressmen and senators in their respective communities to appeal for US-made vaccines to be delivered early to the Philippines.”
An estimated 4.5 million Filipino-Americans live in the United States, with most relatives or friends in the Philippines. They all expressed concern over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our country.
Several influential Democratic senators and congressmen in Washington, DC, have large Fil-Am communities in their respective states. I have met those who tell me how much they appreciate the contribution of Filipino-Americans in their communities, many of whom are front liners working in various hospitals, clinics, and retirement homes.
We totally understand the Biden administration wanting to make sure that US citizens are protected first from the coronavirus rampaging globally, which is why they are accelerating their vaccine rollout, with 3 million vaccinations now done per day. According to President Biden, they are targeting to have every adult American eligible for vaccination by April 19 – ahead of the original target date of May 1.
We are pleased to hear from high US officials that they foresee more than enough vaccines in the US by mid-May; hopefully, they can start shipping US vaccines to many countries, including the Philippines.
The other issue that has galvanized Filipino-Americans and Fil-Am organizations into presenting a united front is the continued attacks against Asian Americans. We are also cooperating with other ASEAN member countries to address the increasing incidents of harassment and violence against Americans of Asian descent.
A recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University in San Bernardino disclosed that while the total number of hate crimes decreased by 7 percent in 2020, the number of hate crimes against Asians increased by 150 percent across 16 major cities in the US, foremost of them in New York City that saw an 833 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes.
The recent incidents show just how serious the situation has become. Many Americans of Asian descent admit that they have become fearful of taking the subway or even walking on the streets. We were pleased to hear of an undercover Fil-Am police officer who caught a hate crime perpetrator red-handed taunting a senior Asian American in the streets of New York. The man was immediately arrested and charged in court.
“The other issue that has galvanized Filipino-Americans and Fil-Am organizations into presenting a united front is the continued attacks against Asian Americans.”
A series of demonstrations across many cities inspired activism, especially among young people. Members of the Filipino Young Leaders Program or FYLPRO recently organized a virtual program dubbed Here/Hear Now: Confronting Anti-Asian Hate to discuss the racist attacks and discrimination being perpetrated against Asian Americans and how Filipinos are supporting each other even while combatting racism.
It is heartbreaking to see racially motivated violence and discrimination being directed towards persons of Asian descent, including Filipino-Americans, especially when the world is still trying to come to terms with grief and despair due to the pandemic. But we are encouraged to see Filipino-Americans speaking out with one voice against hate and racism.
* * *
US committed to help us over West Philippine Sea situation
The continued presence of Chinese maritime vessels in the West Philippine Sea, including the Julian Felipe Reef, has made the United States extremely concerned, underscored by the statement issued by State Department spokesman Ned Price that “an armed attack against the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”
Some of my friends in the intelligence community believe that the aggressive behavior being displayed by China may have been triggered by the Alaska confrontation last March that resulted in a sharp verbal exchange between US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi, who accused the US of being “condescending.”
” … State Department spokesman Ned Price that “an armed attack against the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”
While we are all hoping that the situation will not escalate further, we also must be cognizant of China’s increasing display of aggression and belligerence.
We totally support Defense Secretary Del Lorenzana’s statement that the Julian Felipe Reef is ours and that the Chinese vessels should leave. Groups composed of Philippine Military Association alumni have also expressed their support for Secretary Lorenzana’s firm stand against the continuing encroachment of Chinese vessels along Julian Felipe Reef.
The recent phone conversation between Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin and State Secretary Blinken was also reassuring. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of working closely to enhance the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two nations, whose alliance continues to remain strong and solid.
The world is watching these disturbing geopolitical developments in the Asia Pacific region very carefully. We will continue to work with our friends at the State Department and the Pentagon closely.