Some Palawan provincial board members are scheduled to travel to the contested waters of the West Philippine Sea to support the military and coast guard in the initiative to plant coconut trees on Pag-asa Island, the main seat of government of Kalayaan town.

Board Member Aris Arzaga stated that the trip to Pag-asa Island on August 22 is for a symbolic coconut planting initiative by the Kalayaan municipal government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). The objective is to exhibit solidarity and reinforce the country’s territorial claim over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We will depart on August 20—I encourage all of us—if we genuinely cherish our islands and seas within the West Philippine Sea, I implore our colleagues to participate. This will allow us to demonstrate to the world that these territories belong to us, as decided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” he said.

Arzaga stated that the widespread planting on Pag-asa Island, the location of Kalayaan’s municipal government seat, will showcase to the world that the Philippines possesses the West Philippine Sea, in line with the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016.

He said the activity of planting coconut trees holds a deeper significance beyond just the act itself. It serves as a gesture to assert territorial claims in the disputed waters and demonstrates the unity of the Palaweños.

Meanwhile, Board Member Ryan Maminta conveyed his support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recent statement, wherein he clarified that there is no existing agreement between the Philippines and China to remove the stranded vessel BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.

“In an interview during the emergence of the issue and after China mentioned to him that the Philippines is not abiding by agreements related to the WPS and discussions concerning it, including the removal of the grounded ship, he stated that he is not aware of any deal or agreement. If there is any, he said that he rescinding it for the benefit of Filipinos. We are greatly pleased by these statements he made,” Maminta conveyed.

Maminta further explained that such strong pronouncements from President Marcos Jr. are seen as providing effective guidance to the agencies tasked with establishing policies related to the WPS issue and the preservation of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

On August 5, a confrontation occurred in the WPS when China’s coast guard ships and militia vessels reportedly engaged in aggressive actions towards two Philippine supply mission boats.

These boats were en route to deliver essential supplies, including food and provisions, to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. The incident involved attempts to ram the Philippine boats on multiple occasions and subjecting them to water bombardment.