Baguio City — Philippine church leaders have joined efforts aimed at defending their country's territorial integrity and sovereignty, which they say are under threat by an emerging power in Asia -- China.
"The Philippines is a nation of Davids. But we must flex our prayer and worship muscle against the giant Goliath. China has warships, but we have the power of worship," Pastor June Alonzo of the Jesus' Mountain Praise Ministries told ENInews.
Alonzo's group is among the organizers of a 15 to 16 May regional prayer gathering in Baguio City, which will bring together some 5,000 leaders and members of small churches and fellowships belonging to Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in northern Philippines.
Alonzo said for two days participants would pray for the nation, especially for peace and prosperity amid the tension over the marine-rich and reportedly oil-rich Scarborough Shoal, which China is now claiming.
Also on 19 May in Manila, a national group of small churches and fellowships called the Intercessors for the Philippines and Nameless, Faceless Servants and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches will hold what they call "worship warfare intercession."
"Waging war is not ours but God's. We can win not by our own strength but by the Spirit of God, whom we can invoke to intercede for us through prayers and worship," Bishop Daniel Balais, IFP chair, told the Pilipino Star Ngayon newspaper.
The shoal, 124 nautical miles from Zambales province, is part of the Philippines' economic zone. But China is claiming the shoal to be its "inherent territory," although it lies more than 500 nautical miles from the nearest Chinese port of Hainan.
The tension began on 8 April when Chinese navy ships confronted Philippine navy coast guards, who sought to apprehend Chinese fishing boats that were carrying coral, rare fish and live baby sharks, considered illegal cargo under Philippine law.
Reports said Chinese ships fired on and harassed unarmed Philippine fishing boats and exploration vessels, forcing them to withdraw.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario proposed that the two countries bring their territorial dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea but China has rejected the proposal.
"We must help lobby the Chinese government to agree to settle the conflict at the international court," Bishop Marino Inong of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines told ENInews.
Cebu Archbishop and Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Jose Palma said he supports plans of overseas Filipino groups to hold rallies in front of Chinese embassies and consulates across the globe on 11 May.
On 16 April, the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement: "It is China that first discovered this island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it."
Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying was quoted by Agence France Presse on 8 May as saying China was "prepared to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side."