Christmas convoy departs for West Philippine Sea

By JOVILAND RITA, GMA Integrated News

The first batch of the civilian-led Christmas convoy to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) left Manila for El Nido, Palawan on Friday morning, according to the coalition that initiated the mission.

"In a profound display of solidarity and patriotism, over 40 volunteers, comprising youth and student leaders, along with fisherfolk representatives, embarked on a "Christmas Convoy Civilian Supply Mission" to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) from Manila on Friday morning," said ATIN ITO Coalition in a statement. 

The volunteers were aboard a 150-capacity civilian marine vessel carrying donations and supplies. Upon arrival in El Nido, the volunteers will join a larger contingent of 100 fisherfolk, according to the group.

The Christmas convoy with 40 boats will then set sail to the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, Patag, and Lawak islands from December 10 to 12 to distribute the donations and supplies.

Initially, ATIN ITO had proposed bringing goods to BRP Sierra Madre inside Ayungin Shoal. But, the National Security Council only allowed them on the vicinity waters of Ayungin Shoal due to security concerns.

National Task Force WPS (NTF WPS) spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, meanwhile, confirmed that the task force was informed about the departure of the Christmas convoy.


“Yes, we had meetings,” he told GMA News Online.

Back in November, the National Security Council said that The planned Christmas convoy will pass through the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal as far as practicable, on its way to other selected PH-occupied features to bring Christmas cheer directly to our troops assigned to those areas as well as to our fisherfolk.”

The NSC added that the Christmas gifts and donated supplies will be turned over to Philippine military troops and Coast Guard personnel instead of the convoy directly entering Ayungin Shoal. It added that the items will be delivered to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal during the regular rotation and resupply (RORE) missions.

Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and is an integral part of the Philippines, as well as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the country has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction. 

Among the member organizations of ATIN ITO are the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Center for Agrarian Reform for Empowerment and Transformation (CARET), Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Team Manila Lifestyle, Akbayan Youth, and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP).

"As we sail forth, let our collective commitment echo in the waves: the spirit of Christmas is not confined to festivities but resonates in our shared duty to improve the living and working conditions of our fisherfolk and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea,” said Akbayan Party President Rafaela David.

“It embodies our nation's resilience and our peaceful but determined defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our voyage is a testament to the enduring strength of Filipino unity, even in the face of foreign aggression and intrusion within our beloved West Philippine Sea," he added. —VAL, GMA Integrated News