Kalayaan protesters say China ship, helicopter patrol Pagasa island
Kalayaan Atin Ito, a group of around 50 members who recently finished a protest in Pagasa (Thitu) Island in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, claimed that during their stay, a Chinese Coast Guard ship and helicopter patrolled the island every day during their stay.
“While at Pagasa island–the seat of our Kalayaan municipality–every day, a Chinese Coast Guard patrol ship with bow number 46708 patrolled the shores of our island even inside the 12 nautical miles territorial waters,” the group said in a statement on Monday.
“Also, almost every day, Chinese Coast Guard helicopter patrolled the shores of the Pagasa island–too close that we were able to record it on video through a low tech mobile phone,” it added.
The group, composed of volunteers ranging from 15 to 27 years old, stayed on the island for seven days (Dec. 26 to Jan. 1) to protest China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
The Philippine government was not in favor of the protest, which was led by former Marine officer Captain Nicanor Faeldon, but the military monitored the group throughout the voyage.
The group also slammed China’s “triangle militarized zone” from Fiery Cross Reef to Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.
“Inside this triangle are the other military bases that China has built,” it said.
“Today, it became impossible for our Armed Forces to pass through this triangle as we have experienced when our Philippine Navy tried to tail us but passed through a route outside this triangle and this was admitted by the AFP. Our fishermen too cannot fish in these fishing grounds. In fact, in the entire West Philippine Sea, we have lost its value as a fishing ground to China,” it added.
The group said they will present more details of pictures, videos, and illustrations once they have settled. They have returned to mainland Palawan on Sunday.
The Philippine Navy tailed the group on their return through a helicopter and one of its ships.
Originally, the group Kalayaan Atin Ito aimed to bring 10,000 youths in a month-long protest from November 30 to December 30 on different islands in the Spratlys, but was cut down due to the difficulty to get resources.
Western Command Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said Chinese Coast Guard’s patrols were “not surprising.”
“It is not surprising kasi we have have been seeing patrols by the Chinese Coast Guard and even some incidences na lilitaw yung Chinese Navy. Hindi unusual ‘yun,” he told reporters.
As to the helicopter that supposedly patrolled the island, Lopez said they have yet to get an official report about it.
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