The civilian-led Christmas convoy on early Sunday morning officially began its mission to deliver donations and essential supplies to communities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In a statement, Akbayan Party said the ATIN ITO campaign network departed from San Fernando Port in El Nido, Palawan at 1 a.m. on Sunday to start navigating the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, Patag, and Lawak islands.
“[T]he mission aims to deliver donations and essential supplies to fisherfolk communities and frontliners, and bring the Christmas spirit to the area, as well as peacefully defend the country’s sovereignty against foreign intrusion and aggression,” the group said.
The convoy, led by marine training vessel TS Kapitan Felix Oca, was composed of youth and student leaders, sectoral leaders, fishermen, and members of the media. They were escorted by three Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels led by BRP Melchora Aquino.
The first batch of the Christmas convoy left Manila for El Nido, Palawan on Friday morning.
Initially, ATIN ITO proposed bringing goods to the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, but the National Security Council (NSC) only allowed them in the vicinity waters of Ayungin Shoal due to security concerns.
Akbayan Party President Rafaela David, a co-convenor of ATIN ITO, said it was the first time that civil society took the lead in a civilian supply mission to the WPS.
“We are all proud pioneers of this effort, laying the blueprint for more civilian missions in the future. We hope these endeavors will normalize the movement and presence of our citizens in our own territory, address China’s intrusion and aggression in the region and strengthen our country’s foreign policy based on people’s solidarity,” she said.
“This endeavor not only breaks new ground but also consistently discovers common ground among groups that traditionally do not collaborate, even holding divergent opinions. We all decided to work together for the greater cause of defending our beloved West Philippine Sea. By bridging different sectors and groups, civil society showcases the power of unity and solidarity in addressing critical issues affecting our nation,” she added.
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