All systems are now ready for the Christmas convoy that will set sail to the West Philippine Sea and visit troops stationed in key island features where Filipino troops are stationed, after getting the green light from the National Security Council and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.
Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan stated that Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels will accompany the Christmas convoy as it sets sail in WPS.
The PCG commandant said they are already preparing for the December 10 voyage, which will include at least 40 civilian vessels and around 100 participants, including youth leaders and fishermen.
The group initially planned to board BRP Sierra Madre, but the NSC did not give them permission and instead will just pass by Ayungin Shoal and travel to Lawak and Patag islands.
The Christmas convoy will be carried out to bring presents to the troops assigned to the Philippine-held territories in WPS and express opposition to China’s intrusions into the Philippines’ maritime domain sovereignty, especially inside the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The send-off of the mother ship will be held at the San Fernando Port in El Nido town on Sunday. All the vessels will converge after sailing off from other ports en route to WPS
“We are preparing our security personnel and positioning our vessels to uphold maritime security and safety during the three-day humanitarian initiative,” Gavan said in a statement.
PCG spokesperson, Commodore Jay Tarriela, said they expect more Chinese vessels to swarm around Ayungin Shoal in anticipation of the Christmas convoy.
Tarriela also stated that the convoy is not allowed to enter Ayungin Shoal given the current situation in the area.
“Alam naman ng publiko kung gaano kapanganib ito. The Chinese Coast Guard vessels, sigurado talagang magdedeploy talaga sila ng mas maraming barko dito together with the Chinese maritime militia,” Tareila stated.
“At sa presensya ng Chinese forces na ito, sa palibot ng Ayungin Shoal, there is a high possibility na sasalubungin sila nitong mga Chinese maritime forces na ito,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Tolentino, who earlier expressed fears that China might do something to the convoy, said he is looking forward to no untoward incident and warned parties who are planning to block the vessels to “not spoil our Christmas convoy.”
Tolentino, who chairs the Senate’s special committee on maritime and admiralty zones, said the purpose of the voyage is nothing but to bring Christmas presents to Filipino troops in WPS.
“They are bringing noche buena ham, not war bombs,” the senator said in his privilege speech during the Senate session on Wednesday.
“Any party that will do what will be seen and universally condemned as playing Scrooge this Christmas will be characterized as such. It should have been learned by now that they cannot escape worldwide censure by playing the victim card when their ships are bigger, tactics brazen, and employ bully maneuvers,” he pointed out.