(Photo courtesy of Akbayan Party)

The civilian resupply mission, currently en route to Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), announced that the convoy has achieved its initial three primary objectives. The convoy commenced its three-day journey from Masinloc port in Zambales on Wednesday, May 15.

The Atin Ito Coalition, spearheading a convoy of over 100 commercial fishing vessels and guided by five mother boats, reported that the group has achieved the initial three objectives. These objectives encompassed conducting a peace and solidarity regatta within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), placing symbolic “WPS, Atin Ito!” buoys/markers, and finishing the first round of distributing vital supplies, such as fuel and food packs, to Filipino fishermen in the region.

Atin Ito also declared victory and affirmed that China has already lost the battle of narratives regarding its actions in the WPS.

“China’s narrative has significantly faltered. It is running a very bad script. When a superpower deploys a fleet of military vessels to act as a goalkeeper in a shoal it has no authority over, against a group of wooden fishing boats manned by Filipino civilians, it is unmistakably exposed as an aggressor, usurper, and illegal occupant,” Akbayan Party President and Atin Ito co-convenor Rafaela David stated.

“China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea reveal not strength, but a glaring weakness. When it resorts to intimidating small, civilian fishing vessels with military might, it showcases a narrative built on fear rather than legitimate authority,” she said.

Edicio dela Torre, from the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and a co-convenor of Atin Ito, echoed these sentiments, stating that China’s continued aggression exposes its illegitimate claims over the WPS, while the civilian mission underscores the Philippines’ rightful assertion of sovereignty in the region.

“This civilian supply mission is not just about delivering supplies, it’s about reaffirming our presence and rights in our own waters. The world is watching, and the narrative of rightful ownership and peaceful assertion is clearly on our side,” dela Torre said.

Following today’s activities, the convoy will proceed to the second phase of its journey, aiming to reach the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal, for another round of supply distribution to Filipino fisherfolk in the area.

Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson for WPS, Commodore Jay Tarriela, stated that they will deploy two additional vessels and an aircraft, in addition to the first vessel sent to monitor the mission and ensure the safety of its participants.

During a press briefing conducted by the Philippine Information Agency, Tarriela mentioned that the coast guard initially dispatched BRP Bagacay as the convoy launched the mission early Wednesday morning, following directives from PCG commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan.

“We also dispatched a Coast Guard aircraft to monitor the situation in Bajo de Masinloc and the journey of Atin Ito Coalition,” he added.

“Right now we are making preparations for the vessels that we will deploy,” he said.

Rear Admiral Armando Balilo stated that patrol boats BRP Panglao and BRP Boracay are already being prepared for deployment.

Tarriela also clarified that while the civilian convoy heading to Scarborough Shoal “is not sanctioned by the national government,” it is their duty to ensure the safety and security of its participants.

He mentioned that Admiral Gavan has also ordered the dispatch of additional vessels as the PCG will “make sure and do what it takes to ensure the safety of Filipinos sailing within our EEZ.”

He added that security measures are being implemented in anticipation of China’s reaction to the resupply mission, as they have also dispatched a large number of coast guard and militia vessels to Scarborough Shoal.

“The decision of Atin Ito to conduct a supply mission to Bajo de Masinloc was voluntary. This is their initiative, and we have not supported or pushed them to do this. It is voluntary on their part, a civil society initiative,” Tarriela explained.