Filipinos' event axed for first time in 20 years

SINGAPORE - An annual Independence Day celebration for the Filipino community here has been cancelled for the first time in more than 20 years, in the wake of protests from some netizens here about the event's venue.

The organisers told The Straits Times yesterday in a statement that they had problems finding a new venue, after they were advised to drop plans to have the celebration at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza in Orchard Road on June 8.

They had done so after being advised by the police about "public order and safety" concerns over the weekend. When contacted, the police said organisers "had withdrawn their application".

The organisers, the Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), also said in their latest statement that they had considered other venues "in consultation with Singapore authorities". "However, these did not pan out for various reasons," the PIDCS added, citing factors such as their availability on June 8, accessibility to public transport and capacity constraints.

The celebration to mark the 116th anniversary of the Philippines' independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, was staged at Hong Lim Park last year, and in Suntec City in 2012. It has been held yearly since the mid-1980s.

The Straits Times understands that Labrador Park was one venue considered. Calls to the organisers went unanswered.

The cancellation of the celebration, usually a carnival with cultural presentations and games, comes after hundreds of netizens here voiced unhappiness last month over the event being held in Orchard Road. Others also objected to the council's use of the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event. The negative comments prompted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin to weigh in on Facebook. In an April 19 post, Mr Lee said he was "appalled to read about those who harassed the organisers."

About 172,700 Filipinos work here, the Agence France-Presse reported on Monday, citing Philippine government data.

Meanwhile, two migrant worker groups here - the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics and the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training - said they planned to host Independence Day celebrations here.

The cancellation has disappointed some people here.

Ms Luz Mesenas, a 58-year-old publisher who is from the Philippines, is a regular at the event. She said: "It's sad that there is no Philippine Independence Day celebrations this year. Hopefully, the committee can continue to plan for celebrations next year."

Filipina Charlyn Librazan, 49, who works as a maid, added: "Whatever the circumstance, we can still celebrate with a group of friends."

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said: "What is worrying is that those who protested against the event will see this as a victory.

"I believe most Singaporeans do not share their sentiments. This is a situation where the silent majority should speak up for our foreign friends so it does not come across as a victory for protesters."

This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
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