The National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday said it has allowed the planned civilian-led “Christmas convoy” to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to pass through the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.
“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 fisherfolks,” NSC spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.
Initially, Atin Ito Coalition, composed of non-government organizations and people’s organizations, had proposed bringing goods to BRP Sierra Madre inside Ayungin Shoal.
“Both parties agreed that a convoy to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal would not be advisable at this time since the safety of the civilian convoy is of paramount consideration,” said Malaya.
This development comes after the Christmas convoy was already thumbed down last week by the NSC due to “security concerns.”
Malaya said the NSC and Atin Ito leaders then had a constructive dialogue which led to the agreement of both parties.
Instead of visiting Ayungin Shoal, the convoy will only bring the goods to Pagasa Island. The Christmas gifts and donated supplies will be turned over to Philippine military troops and Coast Guard personnel.
These items will be delivered to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal during the regular rotation and resupply (RORE) missions.
“The agreement ensures the safety and security of the Christmas Convoy, ensures the timely delivery of donated items to our fisherfolk and frontliners, and upholds our sovereign rights to the WPS,” Malaya said.
On Monday, Atin Ito said that the civilian convoy mission in the WPS will be pushed through with a route passing through the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.
The coalition pointed out the importance of the agreement with the NSC in the defense of the WPS, “demonstrating the strength of unity in asserting and defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“In navigating the complexities of the geopolitical landscape, let this reinforce the belief that our country is stronger when united. Together, we will overcome challenges, safeguard what is rightfully ours, and ensure that future generations have access to the same maritime resources that have nourished our country for millennia,” it said.
“We aim to leave a legacy of abundance, preserving our national heritage for the benefit of future Filipinos,” it added.
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. —Joviland Rita/ VAL, GMA Integrated News
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