Group to pursue Christmas convoy to Ayungin shunned by security council

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2023 05:04 PM

MANILA — The "Atin To" coalition said Monday it would go ahead with a Christmas civilian convoy mission for fisherfolk and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea, despite discouragement from the National Security Council. 

Around 40 boats will join the Dec. 5 civilian convoy mission from El Nido, Palawan to Ayungin Shoal, a flashpoint for maritime tensions between Manila and Beijing. 
The group will distribute in-kind provisions such as food, navigating tools, and other needs for fishermen.
The coalition describes the mission as a "bold but peaceful attempt" to assert sovereign rights in the face of harassment from Chinese aggressors.
"It's not an exaggeration when we say Filipinos are being harassed on a daily basis," said Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who slammed China's continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
"Sa kabila ng diplomatikong protesta, patuloy na nagbibingi-bingihan ang Tsina. Hindi sya titigil hanggang di n'ya naaagaw ang teritoryo at katubigan na hindi kanila," Hontiveros added.
Akbayan president Rafaela David said that the Philippines should normalize civilian missions in the West Philippine Sea since it is part of its territory anyway.
The coalition said it was coordinating with the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Security Agency for the mission.
"We should normalize our voyages to the West Philippine Sea, treating them with the same routine as travels to various regions in the country," Akbayan Party president Rafaela David said.
National Security Council Assistant Director Jonathan Malaya recently disapproved the proposal, as it could increase tension in the area.
Atin Ito said that while it was "taking note" of the official's statement, it was committed to the well-being of fisherfolk and frontliners.
"It is with optimism and confidence that we express our belief in the support of the government," the coalition said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the group will also stage a Christmas musical event at the UP Bahay ng Alumni on November 29, which aims to collate donations for the fishermen's needs that will be given through the civilian mission. 
The concert will feature volunteer artists such as Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel, Autotelic, and 6Cyclemind, among others.