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China Coast Guard shadows PH convoy

(UPDATE) CHINA Coast Guard vessels on Wednesday began shadowing a convoy of Philippine civilian boats on their way to a disputed South China Sea shoal, a convoy spokesman said.

Three clearly marked coast guard vessels sailed within sight of the convoy at dusk, and broadcast radio warnings were heard aboard one of the Philippine boats as the convoy moved closer to Scarborough Shoal, convoy spokesman Emman Hizon said.

Civilians on board fishing boats sailed May 15 toward the Chinese-controlled Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to distribute provisions to Filipino fishermen and assert their rights to the disputed waterway.

The trip to the waters around Scarborough Shoal comes two weeks after China Coast Guard vessels fired a water cannon two Philippine government boats in the same area in the latest maritime incident between the countries.

Waving tiny Philippine flags and chanting, «The Philippines is ours, China out!» about 200 people boarded five commercial fishing vessels that sailed out of a northern port in the morning, escorted by 100 small wooden fishing boats with bamboo outriggers.

A few hours later, a lone Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) boat met the convoy in the open seas and stood guard as it handed out food and fuel to Filipino fishermen and dropped a dozen orange buoys marked «WPS is Ours» about 20 nautical miles off the Zambales coast.

WPS is the acronym for the West Philippine Sea, Manila's name for the South China Sea waters immediately west of the Philippines.


Later, the group issued a statement saying it would «proceed to the second phase of its voyage, aiming to reach the vicinity of Panatag Shoal for another round of supply distribution to Filipino fisherfolk in the area.»

The PCG in Manila said it was deploying more vessels to escort the convoy.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesman for the West Philippine Sea, said Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan already ordered the deployment of the 44-meter BRP Bagacay on Wednesday to provide security to the Atin Ito civilian convoy.

The additional ships have been identified as BRP Panglao and BRP Boracay.


The two ships are already in Subic in Zambales,