‘China Coast Guard ship moved to ram Christmas convoy boat’

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
�China Coast Guard ship moved to ram Christmas convoy boat�
Philippine fishing boats approaching the M/V Kapitan Felix Oca at a designated rendezvous point in the West Philippine Sea yesterday after the main civilian vessel of the Christmas convoy aborted its mission as a result of being shadowed by the Chinese coast guard.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — It was the threat of being rammed by Chinese ships that prompted the lead vessel in the “Christmas convoy” to change course without completing its voyage to remote island communities in the West Philippine Sea to deliver goodies and essential items.

But as the T/S Kapitan Felix Oca turned back to El Nido, at least one vessel in the convoy managed to slip past Chinese coast guard and militia vessels to reach Lawak Island – one of the convoy’s destinations – to unload supplies and Christmas gifts for residents of the tiny island community yesterday.

Atin Ito, a coalition dedicated to the cause of fisherfolk frontliners in the West Philippine Sea, said the M/V Chowee arrived on the island at around 5 a.m.

The volunteers, who were on board the vessel, were successful in their mission despite reported harassment from Chinese ships.

“Ito ay panalo para sa patuloy na pagtindig sa kung ano ang atin,” Akbayan, a co-convenor of Atin Ito, said in a Facebook post.

Akbayan also shared photographs showing volunteers dropping donations and supplies with the assistance of frontliners stationed on the island, which China calls Nanshan.

The convoy cut short its journey on Sunday due to “dangerous maneuvers” made by several Chinese vessels targeting one of its ships, Akbayan president Rafaela David said.

She said two Chinese vessels, one from Beijing’s Coast Guard and the other a cargo ship, followed Felix Oca on Sunday at around 3:40 p.m. while it was on its way to Lawak Island from Kayumanggi Bank.

A Chinese Navy warship traveling in the opposite direction also shadowed the vessel.

“If it were only up to us and the Philippine Coast Guard, we would like to proceed with the Christmas convoy. However, we recognize and respect the expertise and experience of the captain,” David said in a statement.

She said the danger faced by the mission became more imminent with the recent water cannon attacks by the Chinese against government supply missions to Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal.

“As China intensifies its aggression within our territory, we should also scale up our unity,” she asserted.

She declared the first even civilian-led supply mission a success despite China’s harassment.

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