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Civilian mission to WPS undeterred by reported Chinese presence

MANILA, Philippines — The civilian-led mission aiming to deliver supplies to Filipino fisherfolk in Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, will proceed with the trip despite the reported heavy presence of Chinese vessels in the area, its organizer said on Monday.

Atin Ito Coalition will sail to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal from May 14 to 17 to bring supplies to fishers and install buoys bearing the message: “West Philippine Sea is ours!”

Akbayan Party president and Atin Ito co-convenor Rafaela David stressed that the upcoming civilian mission is a legitimate exercise of Filipinos’ right to movement within the country’s territory.

David called the reported heavy presence of Chinese vessels in Panatag Shoal “lamentable, but not surprising.”

“It only underscores the urgency of civilianizing the area in response to China's militarization,” she said.

Ray Powell, director of SeaLight, an open-source research initiative that tracks Chinese maritime activity, said on X that China is deploying a “huge force” to blockade Panatag Shoal.

“By this time tomorrow at least four coast guard and 26 large maritime militia ships on blockade (not counting ‘dark’ vessels),” Powell said.

Atin Ito’s voyage comes less than two weeks after the China Coast Guard water cannoned and rammed vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources headed to Panatag Shoal to assist Filipino fishers in the area.

The coalition said that Beijing’s actions unite and inspire them to further defend Filipinos’ rights.

“Atin Ito shall press forward with our peaceful voyage undeterred by any intimidation. We will sail with determination, not provocation, to civilianize the region and safeguard our territorial integrity,” David said.