Philippines adds Chinese New Year to holidays

Philippine President Benigno Aquino Thursday declared Chinese New Year an official holiday, ignoring the objections of some in the business community who say there are already too many public holidays.

It means the Chinese New Year, also known as the spring festival or lunar new year, will be celebrated annually from January 23, 2012.

"The joint celebration is a manifestation of our solidarity with our Chinese Filipino brethren who have been part of our lives in many respects as a country and as a people," Aquino's order said.

The Chinese New Year becomes one of 17 holidays that will be recognised by the Philippines in 2012 including Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter and Muslim holidays Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

Scholars say about two percent of the Philippine population is Chinese.

But many prominent families, including Aquino's clan, have Chinese ancestry and the Chinese New Year is a peak season for Hong Kong and Chinese tourists to come to the Philippines.

Chinese New Year holiday draws mixed reactions

The Aquino administration declared the Jan. 23 Chinese New Year a holiday, a move that got mixed reactions in the Philippines — home to a Chinese minority that nevertheless includes some of the country’s most influential personalities, especially in the world of business and finance.  

President Aquino himself hails from the Filipino-Chinese Cojuangco clan.  

“We believe that this is an important milestone in Philippine-China relations and will make the celebration more meaningful for the rest of the Filipino people,” Ty said.  

On the other hand, the unprecedented announcement also received negative reactions, with some observers noting the small Chinese population in the Philippines. The Chinese only make up 1.5 percent of the country’s population, government data show.

Chinese influence, however, is pervasive in the Philippines. It is not uncommon for Filipinos, for example, to join in Chinese New Year celebrations by having Chinese food and checking Chinese horoscope.  

A number of Filipino-Chinese also wield power in business and finance.  

The richest man in the Philippines — and the 173rd richest man in the world — is mall magnate Henry Sy, according to the Forbes billionaires’ list as of February this year. 

PHL-China relations 

Through Presidential Proclamation No. 295 issued Thursday, the President recognized Chinese New Year as “one of the most revered and festive events celebrated not only in China but also in the Philippines by both Chinese Filipinos and ordinary Filipinos as well.”

He said the joint celebration will manifest “our solidary with our Chinese Filipino brethren who have been part of our lives in many respects as a country and as a people.”  

The Philippines’ relations with China have recently undergone turbulent periods.  

The Spratlys dispute, for example, has challenged diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

Lately, the Philippine government has also found itself seeking negotiations with China for the life of a Filipino who faces execution on December 8 for drug trafficking.

Earlier this year, three convicted Filipinos were executed in China — a high-profile case that had Vice President Jejomar Binay himself appealing to Chinese President Hu Jin Tao for their lives.




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