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Navy ship to monitor ‘Atin Ito’ regatta

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is deploying a ship to monitor some 100 Filipino fishing boats and other civilian vessels en route to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as part of the “peace and solidarity regatta” organized by the Atin Ito Coalition.

The military did not reveal details of the deployment, like which ship is involved or where it intends to take position.

The Navy also revealed it had deployed another vessel to Escoda (Sabina) Shoal to stop possible reclamation activities by the Chinese in the area.

“We would like to commend Atin Ito organizers. This is civil society showing that they understand the issue,” Philippine Navy spokesman for West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad told reporters yesterday.

The Panatag-bound flotilla left Masinloc, Zambales yesterday. The trip is expected to culminate on May 17.

The trip was intended as a humanitarian mission for fishermen as well as a demonstration of Filipinos’ determination to protect the country’s territorial seas.

The convoy is loaded with food and provisions for fishermen who have to stay in the area for days – often harassed by the Chinese – so they could take home sufficient catch.

“It is not only a government approach but a whole of nation approach. China should respect civil society in exercising Philippine rights,” he said.

Trinidad said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is also in close coordination with organizers of the trip to Panatag.

The latest Atin Ito endeavor was the second civilian-led mission to the West Philippine Sea, following the journey to Ayungin Shoal in December last year, also for humanitarian purposes.

China has reportedly increased its presence in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, in anticipation of the civilian convoy.

Trinidad also revealed the deployment of a naval vessel in the vicinity of Escoda Shoal where they noted “the unnatural, unusual presence of crushed corals,” possibly dumped by the Chinese to raise the elevation of the land feature and prepare it for reclamation.

“The coast guard has a regular presence there, Navy has increased its patrols in Escoda Shoal and for the past good number of days, we have had one warship