China's 'constant shadowing' forces Christmas convoy to abort WPS mission

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
China's 'constant shadowing' forces Christmas convoy to abort WPS mission
Journalists onboard the Philippine Coast Guard ship 'Melchora Aquino' take video and photos of a Chinese Coast Guard ship (C) sailing near a Philippine vessel (L) that was part of a convoy of civilian boats in the disputed South China Sea on December 10, 2023.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A convoy of civilian boats planning to deliver provisions to Filipino fishermen and troops in the West Philippine Sea will return to Palawan after being “shadowed” by Chinese vessels, its organizers said Sunday.

“Erring on the side of caution, Atin Ito, in consultation with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), agreed to return to El Nido, Palawan after the constant shadowing of four Chinese vessels,” the Akbayan Party said, referring to two Chinese Navy ships, one China Coast Guard vessel (CCG), and one Chinese cargo ship. 

It said that the convoy’s primary vessel was shadowed by Chinese vessels, starting at 3:40 p.m., south of Kayumanggi Bank.

The “Christmas convoy” left El Nido before dawn Sunday and had planned to go past Ayungin Shoal, where a handful of Filipino troops are stationed on BRP Sierra Madre. 

China’s latest dangerous maneuvers and use of water cannons at Philippine vessels during a resupply mission to Ayungin Sunday morning forced organizers to reroute the convoy to go directly to Lawak Island, where donations would be left. 

The PCG said the actions of the CCG, involving the ramming and firing of water cannons at Philippine boats, damaged parts of two vessels and put the lives of crew members at risk. 

The latest incident comes a day after the CCG also used water cannons to prevent vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from approaching Filipino fishing boats near Bajo de Masinloc off Zambales.

According to Atin Ito coalition, the convoy aimed to highlight the living and working conditions of Filipino fishermen and personnel, and to defend the country's maritime territorial rights.

The people in the convoy included fisherfolk, students, youth leaders and journalists. — with report from Agence France-Presse 

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