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Manila to host joint conference on South China Sea dispute

(Press Release) — In an effort to have a continuous education and public awareness with regard to the South China Sea dispute, a joint conference will be held on Friday, March 27, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bernas Center of Ateneo Law School at Rockwell, Makati, Metro Manila.

The goal of the conference is to establish the first Vietnam-Philippines civil society working group comprising initially of the organizers, VOICE, US Pinoys for Good Governance, Di Ka Pasisiil or You Shall Not Be Oppressed Movement, Hop Mat Dan Chu, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, University of the Philippines.

The co-organizers of the Joint Conference on South China Sea. Standing, from left, Hoi Trinh, executive director of VOICE, Dr. Celia Lamkin, US Pinoys for Good Governance representative and chairperson of USP4GG Marianas chapter; seated, from left, Vi Nguyen, human rights lawyer from California, and Anna Nguyen, a human rights lawyer from Australia.  USP4GG photoThe co-organizers of the Joint Conference on South China Sea. Standing, from left, Hoi Trinh, executive director of VOICE, Dr. Celia Lamkin, US Pinoys for Good Governance representative and chairperson of USP4GG Marianas chapter; seated, from left, Vi Nguyen, human rights lawyer from California, and Anna Nguyen, a human rights lawyer from Australia. USP4GG photo

There will be guests speakers and experts from Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries, open forum, joint statement of the co-organizers, among other things.

Hoi Trinh,a lawyer and Executive Director of the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment or VOICE, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to advocate for Vietnamese refugees and help develop civil society in Vietnam, initiated this joint conference and collaborated with civil society groups in the Philippines and overseas.

Trinh says, “We would like to recognize the role of civil society with regard to the issues on the South China Sea disputes, and we reject China’s 9-Dash line claims. The co-organizers as well as the international experts aim to find solutions and determine issues free from government constraints.

The long term goal is to have a yearly forum, and we intend to invite other civil society groups from other countries including China, added Trinh.

Human Rights Counsel of VOICE, Long Trinh says, “Civil Society should play a significant role to promote peace and security in the South China Sea internationally. I hope this conference can provide an opportunity for civil society organizations in the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries to start a platform and a long-term process to address the dispute in the sea area.

US Pinoys for Good Governance, a nonprofit organization in the US chaired by attorney Loida Nicolas Lewis, a prominent U.S. civic leader, businesswoman and philanthropist, has a mission to provide a better life to all Filipinos everywhere and a better Philippines.

US Pinoys for Good Governance has initiated the rally in front of China’s consulate in the U.S., the Philippines and other countries to protest against China’s aggression on West Philippine Sea since July 2011. To increase education and awareness among the Filipino youth in the Philippines and overseas, it has launched an essay contest on West Philippine Sea in November 2012 with a theme, “The West Philippine Sea and its impact on the future of the Philippines.”

“I am hoping that we can define solutions in achieving peace and resolutions in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea disputes,” said Dr. Celia Lamkin, USP4GG representative, and the chairperson of the US Pinoys for Good Governance Marianas chapter (NMI and Guam).

One of the co-organizers, Hop Mat Dan Chu or the Democracy Forum, is a group of Vietnamese intellectuals and activists formed to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam. Some 25 of them will fly to Manila from all over the world: Europe, Australia, North America.

Former Philippine Congressman Roilo Golez, founder of the Di Ka Pasisiil or You Shall Not Be Oppressed Movement, and a former Philippine national security adviser says, “We in the Di Ka Pasisiil Movement are honored to be a co-organizer of the Joint Conference on the South China Sea together with VOICE, US Pinoys for Good Governance, Hop Mat Dan Chu, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, University of the Philippines. This is a very timely conference in the light of many fast moving developments that, if unchecked, could alter the balance of power and security complexion in the Asia Pacific Region and even the world.”

He added, “The Di Ka Pasisiil Movement, since its founding in 2013, has been at the forefront of rallies and demonstrations in front of the China Consulate in Makati. The movement helps in articulating international opposition to China’s bullying and land grabbing activities in the South China Sea by participating in mass multisectoral rallies and on its own, through lightning rallies and the issuance of manifestoes that are addressed to the ICC. We congratulate in particular VOICE for initiating this conference and mobilizing the participation of like-minded groups. We view this as another major step to make the world aware of China’s bullying tactics and illegal occupation of features and waters of the South China Sea.”