Youth volunteers to push through with ‘protest’ at Kalayaan Islands
MANILA, Philippines — The voyage of youth volunteers planning to stage a protest at the Kalayaan Group of Islands will push through on Tuesday (Dec. 1) despite the opposition of some defense and military officials.
The “Kalayaan Atin Ito” will begin its sea trip a day late, because of the delays in the arrivals of some participants from the Visayas region.
“The flights of some volunteers were cancelled due to inclement weather condition in Visayas. We need to adjust our schedule. We will wait for all volunteers until Tuesday,” said Mariel Ipan, one of the volunteers.
The youth group will be pushing through with its plans to stage protests at the Kalayaan Group of Islands to assert the country’s claims over the West Philippine Sea.
This was despite the objection of defense and military officials on grounds that the journey would be too perilous, and that it might have implications on the ongoing arbitration case between the Philippines and China.
Originally, the group was supposed to leave on November 30 but the schedule was delayed by a day because of the delays in the arrivals of volunteers from other parts of the country.
The protest was supposed to last from November 30 to December 30.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin himself also asked the group not to push through with the voyage because of the bad weather conditions at sea and because of the ongoing arbitration case against China before an international tribunal.
The Philippines has lodged a case against China to challenge its nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea. China has been aggressive in building man-made islands in the contested area.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it tried to discourage volunteers since the AFP has not been tasked or has had time to prepare to secure the volunteers during the voyage.
Col. Restituto Padilla, the AFP spokesperson, said the military would only monitor the voyage through radio communications with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard.
“They are on their own… We will only monitor them, the AFP is not directly participating since we told them that there are better, alternative activities to show their support instead of travelling there,” said Padilla.
Earlier, the Kalayaan Atin Ito said it had 10,000 volunteers from the Philippines’ 81 provinces who committed to the 30-day protest.
However, the group encountered some difficulty in raising funds and support for the voyage and protest, which was estimated to cost at least P1 billion.
Padilla said they received information that the volunteers would rent boats to get to the Kalayaan Group of Islands, a municipality under the province of Palawan.
The AFP said it would monitor the protests through radio communication with the rented boats, as there would be no aircraft monitoring the voyage.
“This is not the best time to travel. The waters are rough, that’s why we requested if they can reconsider doing other alternative activities,” Padilla said.
However, the youth group maintained they would proceed with their journey.
“We are optimistic that the Department of National Defense and AFP will understand and eventually support our voyage because this is in support of the government’s effort to assert our right in our own seas,” Ipan said. SFM
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