2nd ‘Atin Ito’ voyage to plant PH markers in Masinloc

2nd ‘Atin Ito’ voyage to plant PH markers in Masinloc

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:36 AM April 26, 2024

2nd ‘Atin Ito’ voyage to plant PH markers in Masinloc

FIRST DELIVERY Photo taken on Dec. 11, 2023, and released by Atin Ito coalition shows Philippine Coast Guard personnel on a pontoon with goods collected from one of the civilian vessels that took part in the group’s first mission in the West Philippine Sea. —AFP

A group pressing for the defense of Philippine sovereign rights over the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea against China’s encroachment is planning a voyage to Bajo de Masinloc to plant markers and deliver supplies to Filipino fishers in their traditional fishing ground next month.

Akbayan president Rafaela David, coconvener of Atin Ito, said her group would lead a “peace and solidarity regatta” of up to 100 fishing boats from Zambales province to the shoal, also known as Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, about 220 kilometers away on May 15.


READ: ‘Atin Ito’: The birth of active citizenship


Atin Ito is a coalition of social activists, Church leaders, fisherfolk, entrepreneurs, artists and youth to defend Philippine sovereign rights in the West Philippines Sea (WPS) amid heightened maritime tensions between Manila and Beijing.

The objective of the civilian flotilla is “to reinforce our country’s territorial integrity,” according to David.

‘WPS is ours’

In 2016, an international arbitral tribunal ruling invalidated China’s expansive claims to nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s 370-km EEZ.

Beijing refused to recognize the tribunal’s decision on the case filed by the Philippines challenging China’s claims and its nine-dash line in the strategic waterway.

David said the fishing boats would sail from Masinloc town in Zambales. On reaching the vicinity of the shoal, the Filipinos would place symbolic markers or buoys with the words, “WPS is ours!”


Sending a message

According to another Atin Ito coconvener, Edicio dela Torre, president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, the placement of the markers “sends a resolute message: The West Philippine Sea is not up for grabs.”

“It belongs to us, and we, as active citizens, will peacefully defend it,” Dela Torre said.

Atin Ito has also invited international observers to join the voyage to monitor and document the situation in the West Philippine Sea and witness firsthand the challenges faced by Filipinos in those waters.

“In the face of adversity, we must stand firm in defending what is rightfully ours—nothing more, nothing less. Our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea is not negotiable,” Dela Torre said.

“It is a fundamental aspect of our national identity and heritage, rooted in centuries of history and upheld by international law,” he added.

Bigger than first trip

The planned flotilla next month would be more than twice as big as the 40 civilian boats that took part in Atin Ito’s first voyage to the West Philippine Sea in December last year to deliver supplies and gifts to Filipino troops on the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusted World War II-era warship serving as a military outpost on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

That Christmas holiday supply mission to Ayungin and other Philippine-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea, was harassed by China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels.

The flagship boat cut short its trip and returned to El Nido in Palawan province after being “shadowed” by at least four Chinese vessels.

Chinese warships

But one of the smaller boats in the convoy was able to reach the Philippine-occupied Lawak Island.

This time, David said the group was also planning to deliver essential supplies, including fuel, to Filipino fishers at Scarborough.

On Jan. 12 this year, Chinese vessels drove away Filipino fishermen who were collecting sea shells near the south entrance of the shoal while another Filipino fishing boat was harassed by CCG on a rubber boat.

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The Philippine Coast Guard also earlier reported the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy warships in the area.

In February, President Marcos said the presence of Chinese warships in the West Philippine Sea was “worrisome.”

TAGS: Atin Ito, Bajo de Masinloc

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