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‘Freedom Voyage’ pushes through

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – After being delayed for more than half a month, the planned “Freedom Voyage” by a group of youth volunteers to the disputed Spratlys archipelago finally pushed through on Christmas Eve.

Government authorities earlier objected to the voyage for security reasons.

Vera Joy Ban-eg, “Kalayaan Atin Ito” (KAI) co-convenor, said as of yesterday, the group, headed by former Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon, was on its way to the vicinity of the Chinese-occupied Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, an obscure maritime feature Beijing has transformed into an artificial island.

Since the government does not sanction the trip, KAI allowed only 46 of the 10,000 student volunteers to join the historic “patriotic journey.”

The group, aboard a boat, left Buliluyan Point yesterday for Pag-Asa Island. They will be staying on the island for three days, Bag-eg said.

She said the previous KAI plan to visit all the seven islets in the Spratlys was readjusted due to time constraints, as the voyage had been delayed.

Ban-eg did not explain how the voyage pushed through despite disapproval by the defense and military establishments and the Philippine Coast Guard.

“We expect the group to be back to mainland Palawan on Dec. 30. The rest of the volunteers who could no longer be accommodated in the boat are at our campsite to act as a support group,” Ban-eg said.

KAI launched the Freedom Voyage, a year-old maritime and territorial campaign from Batanes and Tawi-Tawi, to peacefully protest China’s continuing aggression in the West Philippine Sea. 

However, government authorities blocked the voyage, saying this might endanger the lives of the volunteers as the voyage included sailing through rough seas in the West Philippine Sea and the group might encounter Chinese vessels.

The group, numbering around 100, arrived in Puerto Princesa last month and established a camp at Barangay Buenavista near Ulugan Bay and searched for boats that would take them to visit the troops on the disputed islands.

Ulugan bay is now home to a newly established Navy camp fronting the West Philippine Sea.

Faeldon had attempted to protest against the Chinese occupation of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal but President Aquino prevailed upon him not to push through with the protest at the time even as his group was already preparing to leave Zambales in May 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACIRC BARANGAY BUENAVISTA BATANES AND TAWI-TAWI BULILUYAN POINT CHRISTMAS EVE FREEDOM VOYAGE GROUP JOHNSON SOUTH KALAYAAN ATIN ITO NBSP WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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