40 boats to join Christmas convoy to Ayungin Shoal
MANILA, Philippines — At least 40 boats will be participating in the three-day Christmas caravan being organized by the Atin Ito Coalition in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) next weekend.
The group intends to depart from Palawan on Dec. 10 and sail toward the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal where soldiers are stationed at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre.
While the caravan is not being allowed to visit and bring Christmas gifts to government troops manning the rusty warship, the National Security Council (NSC) has permitted the civilian boats to traverse its general vicinity.
Atin Ito’s convoy is then expected to visit Patag and Lawak Islands as well as Pag-asa Island where they can bring gifts for residents and soldiers stationed there and leave those intended for troops on the BRP Sierra Madre for delivery by the Philippine Coast Guard or the Philippine Navy in a rotation and resupply (RORE) mission.
Akbayan, one of the groups under the Atin Ito Coalition, said one of the 40 boats joining the caravan is a mother vessel that can accommodate a maximum of 100 persons.
“We will still go to the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal and hopefully we will get as near as possible, it depends what is practical and safe,” Akbayan party president Rafaela David told TeleRadyo Serbisyo yesterday.
The NSC had initially rejected the planned Christmas convoy, citing security risks considering recent incidents in the Philippine Navy’s RORE missions to the Ayungin Shoal.
But after a dialogue, the NSC granted clearance but on condition that the convoy will not really go to Ayungin Shoal but will be allowed to pass in the general area at a safe distance from the Sierra Madre.