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Military lauds volunteers for voyage to Kalayaan

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces praised yesterday the student volunteers of Kalayaan Atin Ito (KAI) when they reached Pag-asa Island a day after Christmas.

However, the Armed Forces stands firm that the “Freedom Voyage” should not have been undertaken and that there are other ways to be patriotic instead of endangering their lives on the high seas aboard a small motor launch, according to spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.

“While we salute and praise the group’s patriotic and nationalistic stand, we remain firm that they should have just simply looked for alternative activities that are less risky but will still have a major impact on our mari- time and sovereignty rights over the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG),” he said.

Among the alternatives that the military had pro- posed to KAI members was for them to sustain their maritime and territorial campaign through advocacies in their schools.

In this way, the student- volunteers will be generating public awareness on the prevailing issues involving the country’s stand in the West Philippine Sea and the KIG as opposed to those of other claimant countries.

But if it could not be stopped, as they have al- ready done it, KAI must put premium on the safety of everybody joining the voyage and this calls for planning, the lack of which was one of the reasons the defense and military establishments, including the Coast Guard, strongly opposed the Freedom Voyage, Padilla said.

“We are just thankful that none of our fears happened,” he said. “That’s why we salute them and praise them for their show of patriotism and nationalism for the cause they are working on.”

Padilla was referring to prevailing sea conditions in the region, as well as the possible reaction of China once their small boat is intercepted.

As the student-volunteers are camped out on Pag-asa Island, the Armed Forces Western Command, with the safety of the volunteers in mind, has sent a medical doctor, a priest and needed provisions, including bottled water.

The military doctor would check the health condition of volunteers, while a military chaplain attended to their spiritual needs and bottled water and other food provisions were also sent to augment their dwindling supplies, Padilla said.

Volunteers to the Freedom Voyage who made it Pag-asa Island are expected to be back in mainland Palawan tomorrow, Dec. 30, Rizal Day.

A group of 46 KAI student-volunteers led by former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon sailed for Pag-asa Island last Dec. 24 from Buliluyan Point after the defense and military establishment disapproved of their planned month-long Nov. 30-Dec. 30 Freedom Voyage.

After spending Christmas in the open sea, KAI finally reached Pag-asa on Dec. 26, to the warm welcome of civilian residents after Wescom allowed the students to dis- embark from their boat.

ACIRC ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES WESTERN COMMAND BULILUYAN POINT COAST GUARD FREEDOM VOYAGE KALAYAAN ATIN ITO MARINE CAPT NICANOR FAELDON PADILLA PAG
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