Christmas convoy sets sail for historic mission in West Philippine Sea

Kristine Daguno-Bersamina - Philstar.com
Christmas convoy sets sail for historic mission in West Philippine Sea
The civilian-led Christmas convoy departs from San Fernando Port in El Nido, Palawan on Dec. 10, 2023, marking the beginning of its journey to the West Philippine Sea.
Facebook / Akbayan

MANILA, Philippines — The Christmas convoy kicked off its mission on Human Rights Day to provide essential aid to fisherfolk communities and frontliners while asserting the nation's sovereignty against external pressures.

Akbayan Party announced the departure of the Atin Ito campaign network from San Fernando Port in El Nido, Palawan at 1 a.m. on Sunday.

"Setting sail from the San Fernando Port in El Nido, Palawan, the mission aims to deliver donations and essential supplies to fisherfolk communities and frontliners, and bring the Christmas spirit to the area, as well as peacefully defend the country's sovereignty against foreign intrusion and aggression," the Akbayan Party said in a statement.

Termed as "West Philippine Sea ambassadors," the 200-strong group includes 20 youth and student leaders, 20 sectoral representatives, 100 fishers manning a fleet of 40 boats, and nearly 60 local and international journalists. 

Led by the TS Kapitan Felix Oca, a top marine training vessel, the convoy heads to Ayungin Shoal, Patag, and Lawak islands, escorted by three Philippine Coast Guard ships led by BRP Melchora Aquino.

Rafaela David, a co-convenor of Atin Ito, explained how historic the civilian-led mission is, setting many "firsts" in the country's history.

"For the first time in our history, civil society is taking the lead in a civilian supply mission to the West Philippine Sea. We are all proud pioneers of this effort, laying the blueprint for more civilian missions in the future," David said.

"We hope these endeavors will normalize the movement and presence of our citizens in our own territory, address China's intrusion and aggression in the region and strengthen our country's foreign policy based on people's solidarity," she added.

David also said that the mission is a pioneering collaboration involving civil society, media, government bodies and the uniformed services.

"We all decided to work together for the greater cause of defending our beloved West Philippine Sea. By bridging different sectors and groups, civil society showcases the power of unity and solidarity in addressing critical issues affecting our nation," the Atin Ito co-convenor said.

The National Security Council initially discouraged the convoy from directly approaching the tense waters of Ayungin Shoal but allowed the convoy to remain within the disputed waters' vicinity.

The NSC revealed that the convoy plans to visit Pag-asa Island, delivering gifts and supplies to the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard for the routine resupply of BRP Sierra Madre.

The donated items included noche buena packs, solar lamps, rice sacks, canned goods, hygiene kits, gadgets, toys, and figures from the Christmas Belen, all aimed at supporting soldiers and fisherfolk communities.

Around 60 local and foreign media professionals joined to cover from the West Philippine Sea alongside the civilian-led convoy.

Before heading to the West Philippine Sea on Saturday, the Christmas convoy assured to prioritize safety while following advice from the PGC and avoiding potential confrontations with China. — with reports from Ian Laqui

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with