(PN photo)

The Atin Ito Coalition announced on Thursday that the 2nd civilian-led supply mission to the West Philippine Sea will depart from Masinloc, Zambales, and sail to Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) on May 15.

Atin Ito, which initiated the Christmas Convoy in December 2023, said the 2nd edition of the civilian resupply mission will push through this time “amid escalating tensions fueled by China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).”

The mission will be comprised of two main civilian boats escorted by 100 small fishing vessels that will assert the Philippines’ sovereign rights within the country’s 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

A Peoples Liberation Army Navy warship and a China Coast Guard vessel threatened the mother boat carrying volunteers who had joined the mission, cutting short the Christmas convoy that had set sail from Barangay San Fernando in El Nido, Palawan, midway to Ayungin Shoal.

The incident also occurred shortly after a CCG vessel water cannoned General Romeo Brawner, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, during a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal.

Another vessel carrying supplies and Christmas presents was, however, able to evade the CCG and make it to Lawak Island.

The 2nd edition, dubbed “Peace and Solidarity Regatta,” aims to set up markers in WPS that will serve as additional guides for fishermen who sail to the area for their livelihood.

“The primary objectives of the mission are to conduct a ‘peace and solidarity regatta’ within our EEZ, during which symbolic markers/buoys emblazoned with the rallying cry ‘WPS, Atin Ito!’ (WPS is ours!) will be placed to reinforce our country’s territorial integrity. We will also explore the possibility of delivering essential supplies, including fuel, to Filipino fishermen operating in the area,” said Akbayan President Rafaela David, who is a co-convenor of Atin Ito.

Scarborough Shoal, a low-tide elevation 220 kilometers (119 nautical miles) west of Zambales, is a rich fishing ground where CCG and maritime militia vessels continue to harass Filipino fishermen.

Atin Ito announced that it has once again invited international observers to join the mission to monitor and document the situation in WPS and witness firsthand the challenges faced by Filipino fishers and frontliners, emphasizing the global significance of upholding maritime law and freedom of navigation.

“In the face of adversity, we must stand firm in defending what is rightfully ours—nothing more, nothing less. Our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea is not negotiable. It is a fundamental aspect of our national identity and heritage, rooted in centuries of history and upheld by international law,” Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement President (PPRM) Edicio Dela Torre, also an Atin Ito co-convenor, said.

“Thus, our plan to place markers in our EEZ sends a resolute message: the West Philippine Sea is not up for grabs. It belongs to us, and we, as active citizens, will peacefully defend it,” he added.

David, meanwhile, stated that Atin Ito’s second civilian mission builds on the success of its historic first last year.

“Amid the evolving geopolitical dynamics, citizens must navigate an independent but collaborative path that harnesses the Bayanihan spirit of our communities and asserts the rights of our people, especially our fishermen. Active citizenship is a superpower in and of itself. By mobilizing civilians and engaging in peaceful activities within our EEZ, we reclaim our space and assert our territorial integrity in a manner that champions peace and diplomacy,” she said.

The activity is also set just a few days after Exercise Balikatan 39-2024, the biggest military drill so far between the AFP and the United States Indo-Pacific Command, which is scheduled to conclude on May 10.