Statement shirts assert Philippine claim in Spratlys

spratlys-statement-shirtsPalawan, the province nearest the West Philippine Sea, has jurisdiction over the country’s regime of islands in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – “Sa atin ‘yun e. Dapat hindi mawala sa atin ‘yun.” (That belongs to us. It should not be taken away from us). 

This was the reaction of Husin Lamasawi, owner of a shop that offers customized T-shirts and mugs, to the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

As China continues its aggressive expansion in the region, it appears that what Filipinos cannot assert through military means, they do so through diplomatic protests – and T-shirts.

Lamasawi’s shop Zoneyx Printshoppe sold T-shirts during a trade fair last Wednesday that coincided with the 70th anniversary of Palawan’s liberation from Japanese invaders.

The Palawan Tourism Council Trade Fair was held in Rizal Park, an area adjacent to the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral and across Plaza Cuartel, where more than 100 Americans were burned alive by Japanese troops in 1944.

Palawan, the province nearest the West Philippine Sea, has jurisdiction over the country’s regime of islands in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

Aside from the usual T-shirts that feature Palawan’s tourist spots like the Puerto Princesa Underground River and El Nido, Zoneyx Printshoppe also sold statement shirts about the Philippines’ ownership of some West Philippine Sea areas.

One shirt read “Spratlys belong to the Philippines” while another stated “Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan belongs to the Philippines… Scarborough Shoal too.”

“T-shirts with the Spratlys design are selling well,” Lamasawi said in Filipino.

When asked why he came up with such design, Lamasawi replied: “Gusto ko ipagkalat sa buong mundo na atin ito (I want to tell the whole world that the area is ours).”

Lamasawi said the West Philippine Sea-themed T-shirts sold like hot cakes when they set up a stall during an event at the Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifaco last November.

“I sold more than 200 shirts that time and the Marines really liked the design,” he said.

The statement shirts are also a hit among adults who visit who visit the Zoneyx Printshoppe stall in the Market Mall also in this city.

Small, medium and large shirts cost P230 while extra large ones cost P250. Customers can compose their statements or alter existing design templates at no extra cost.

Other print shops and establishments in this city also offer T-shirts. Galetote, a shop located along the National Highway in Barangay San Miguel, offers a shirt that reads: “Ayungin Shoal is ours.”

“Many are buying the T-shirt because they read about it from the newspapers,” a female store attendant said, referring to the Ayungin Shoal shirt.

“The T-shirt appeals to adults. The younger ones prefer the shirts with the tourist destinations,” she added.

The attendant said more than a hundred Ayungin shirts have been sold since the design was displayed.

A white shirt with the words “Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea…tunay na atin (truly ours) is being sold at the KaLui, a popular seafood restaurant in this city. The design, however, was out of stock when The STAR visited the restaurant last Tuesday.

“The T-shirt with that design is really selling fast. We are still awaiting new deliveries ” a female staff said in Filipino.

Maribel Buni, chief tourism officer of Palawan, said such T-shirts create awareness about the Philippines’ territorial rights.

“The T-shirts create consciousness that these areas belong to us,” Buni said in an interview.

The military earlier reported that China is conducting reclamation and construction projects in at least seven West Philippine Sea areas that the Philippines considers as part of its territory.

China is conducting reclamation in Panganiban (Mischief), Kennan (Chigua) and Mabini (Johnson South) Reefs. It is also building structures in Burgos (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Zamora (Subi), and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

The Philippines has been criticizing China’s actions, calling them blatant violations of international law.

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