2 China Coast Guard ships try to block ‘Atin Ito’ convoy

2 China coast guard ships try to block ‘Atin Ito’ convoy

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:36 AM May 16, 2024

2 China Coast Guard ships try to block ‘Atin Ito’ convoy to West Philippine Sea.

KEEPING WATCH China Coast Guard vessels pictured here are seen tailing the “Atin Ito” mission to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal nearly two kilometers away from the convoy. —photo from the Philippine Coast Guard

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA, Philippines — Two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels on Wednesday shadowed and tried to block the Filipino civilian-led convoy sailing toward Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a resource-rich area in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that was seized by China in 2012.

At 6:15 p.m., a CCG ship, with body No. 4108, maneuvered to block FB Bing Bing, one of the four commercial fishing vessels comprising the supply mission organized by the Akbayan-led “Atin Ito” (This is Ours) Coalition. The fishing boats, called by locals as “Pangulong,” carried volunteers, journalists and fishermen.


READ: ‘Atin Ito’ promotes ‘active citizenship model’ in West Philippine Sea


Leonardo Cuaresma, president of the New Masinloc Fishermen Association, who is onboard FB Bing Bing, said their boat was 24 nautical miles (44.44 kilometers) away from their destination in Panatag, or Bajo de Masinoc when the incident happened. Their location was about 100 nautical miles (185.2 km) from Masinloc town in Zambales province, where the convoy, initially accompanied by a fifth commercial fishing boat and about 100 small outriggers, set sail early in the morning on Wednesday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which is escorting the civilian convoy through the 44-meter BRP Bagacay, confirmed the presence of two CCG vessels.

READ: ‘Hope for best, prepared for worst’: Scarborough civilian convoy starts

In a Viber message to reporters late Wednesday afternoon, Emman Hizon, one of Atin Ito’s organizers, reported that two Chinese vessels had already been spotted in the area. These CCG vessels have body Nos. 4108 and 4109, he said.

The Chinese sighting led to an exchange of “radio challenges” between the PCG and its counterpart.

No Filipinos onboard the fishing boats were hurt during the incident.


Through a radio message, Rafaela David, coconvener of Atin Ito Coalition who was on FB Bing Bing, instructed other members of the convoy to “proceed.”


Before this encounter, a PCG aircraft (Cessna Caravan 2081) sent to monitor the civilian mission was able to track 19 China-flagged vessels sailing near Panatag at 8:23 a.m. This comprised eight CCG vessels, 10 suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels and People’s Liberation Army-Navy vessel 668, based on a PCG summary report.

The PCG aircraft also detected “two floating barriers at the southeast entrance of [Bajo de Masinloc].”

This led to four radio challenges issued by China against the PCG aircraft, which returned to Manila by 10 a.m.

American maritime expert Ray Powell earlier said that China had sent a “huge force” of ships to blockade Panatag as the civilian convoy sailed to the contested shoal.

Atin Ito’s David said: “China’s narrative has significantly faltered. It is running a very bad script. When a superpower deploys a fleet of military vessels to act as a goalkeeper in a shoal it has no authority over, against a group of wooden fishing boats manned by Filipino civilians, it is unmistakably exposed as an aggressor, usurper and illegal occupant.”

“China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea reveal not strength, but a glaring weakness. When it resorts to intimidating small, civilian fishing vessels with military might, it showcases a narrative built on fear rather than legitimate authority,” she added.

Located inside the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile (370 km) EEZ, Panatag Shoal is coveted for its bountiful fish stocks and a lagoon that provides a safe haven for vessels during storms.

More ships from PCG

At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Atin Ito convoy distributed fuel and food supplies to about 100 fishermen and installed buoys marked with “WPS, Atin Ito” (WPS, This is Ours) in an area some 40 km west of Masinloc town.

After installing the buoys and finishing the first round of supply missions to local fishermen, four of the main commercial fishing boats continued their journey to Panatag, while the smaller boats returned to Matalvis Port in Masinloc.

The civilian convoy is expected to reach the vicinity of Panatag at 6 a.m. on Thursday.

Rear Adm. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, told the Inquirer on Wednesday afternoon that the BRP Panglao and BRP Boracay, coming from Manila and Batangas province, were on their way to Panatag to “rendezvous the convoy.”

In a news briefing, Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said: “Because of the multiple deployments of the People’s Republic of China to block our ‘Atin Ito’ coalition, our [PCG] commandant has decided to add two more coast guard vessels to ensure the safety of our countrymen should there be any untoward incidents.”

“There’s no denying the fact [that] there are a lot of (CCG) vessels deployed there. You can use different ways, whether commercial satellite info… it’s open source, and [it] could be confirmed that what Ray Powell said was true… So, I won’t deny it,” said Tarriela.

Asked whether this would escalate tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Tarriela said China should be blamed for any provocation.

“Are we provoking them? Are we escalating the tension?” asked Tarriela. “No, they’re the ones escalating the tension because of the mere fact that they are deploying their coast guard vessels, their maritime militia vessels to block a civil society initiative in sailing within our own EEZ.”

Asserting sovereignty

In a statement on Wednesday, Edicio dela Torre of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, also an Atin Ito coconvener, said “the persistent aggression displayed by China in the West Philippine Sea only highlights its lack of legitimate claim.”

“Our mission is a testament to the resilience and rightful assertion of our sovereignty by the Filipino people. This civilian supply mission is not just about delivering supplies, it’s about reaffirming our presence and rights in our own waters,” he said.

“The world is watching, and the narrative of rightful ownership and peaceful assertion is clearly on our side,” Dela Torre said.

In another statement, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, called for prayers “that no untoward incident happens” to the civilian convoy.

“A stubborn civilian presence instead of a joint military show of force is indeed the peaceful, nonviolent approach to this conflict. This is also a good test case of civilian supremacy over the military, which is essential in a true democracy,” David said.

“This is a better way to express our unity as a nation and assert our sovereignty toward China without succumbing to the demands of warmongers who are eager to involve us in a violent proxy war that would only benefit the major arms industries,” he added.

Atin Ito led a similar mission in December to deliver supplies to troops stationed at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal off Palawan province, but it cut short its journey due to what it described as shadowing and harassment by Chinese coast guard ships.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the civilian mission. It has maintained China has “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters.”

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

But a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration found that China’s sweeping claims have no legal basis. —with reports from Kathleen de Villa and Reuters

TAGS: Atin Ito Coalition, BRP Bagacay, CCG, EEZ, New Masinloc Fishermen Association, Panatag Shoal

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.