NSC approves Christmas convoy to WPS; BRP Sierra Madre still off limits
MANILA, Philippines — The National Security Council (NSC) finally green-lighted on Tuesday the civilian-led Christmas convoy to the West Philippine Sea (WPS), allowing them to pass through the general vicinity of Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
However, the NSC did not allow the convoy to reach the BRP Sierra Madre, according to its spokesperson Jonathan Malaya.
“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,” Malaya said in a statement.
“Nonetheless, 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,” he added.
Malaya said the convoy will also visit Pagasa Island to bring goods to the Philippine troops assigned there.
During their stopover in the area, the convoy will turn over their gifts and donated supplies for BRP Sierra Madre to the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard, which would deliver during their regular rotation and resupply mission in the warship, according to Malaya.
The replenishment operation for the commissioned World War II-era warship became the flashpoint of tensions between the Philippines and China.
It can also be recalled that the China Coast Guard used water cannons against the Philippine resupply fleet for the BRP Sierra Madre in August and November this year.
Beijing continues to assert its sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea — including most of the western section of Manila’s exclusive economic zone — despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling effectively dismissing its claims.
The Philippines occupies nine other maritime features — collectively known as Kalayaan Island Group — around the WPS area.