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PCG sends 2 more escort vessels for ‘Atin Ito’ convoy to WPS

<p><strong>'ATIN ITO' CONVOY.</strong> The 'Atin Ito' civilian convoy stopped for a symbolic laying of a marker while on the way to their mission to Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea on Wednesday (May 15, 2024). National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) spokesperson, PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela, said two more PCG vessels have been dispatched to safeguard the civilian convoy, in addition to BRP Bagacay that was dispatched ahead of the mission. <em>(Photo courtesy of PCG)</em></p>

MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday dispatched two more vessels to escort the “Atin Ito” convoy to the Bajo de Masinloc to ensure the safety of the Filipino civilian movement.

During a press conference hosted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Quezon City, National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) spokesperson, PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said the two vessels are in addition to BRP Bagacay that went ahead of the civilian convoy and would rendezvous with the group before it reaches Bajo de Masinloc.

“We also dispatched an aircraft to monitor the situation in Bajo de Masinloc,” Tarriela said.

To date, he said, the civilian convoy has already left Zambales and is on its way to the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a Viber message to reporters, PCG spokesperson, Rear Admiral Armando Balilo, said the two ships are BRP Panglao and BRP Boracay – both 24-meter patrol fast boats.

“BRP Boracay is in Subic already. Padating na din si BRP Panglao (BRP Panglao is also on its way),” Balilo said.

He added that a PCG aircraft remains on standby to monitor the civilian mission.


‘Atin Ito’ not sanctioned by PH government

On the other hand, Tarriela clarified that the “Atin Ito” convoy is a civilian mission and is not sanctioned by the Philippine government.

“Itong desisyon ng Atin Ito na maglayag ay voluntary. Hindi natin pinilit, this is a civil society initiative (This decision of Atin Ito to sail is voluntary. We did not force them, this is a civil society initiative),” he said.

However, he said, PCG Commandant, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan has ordered the dispatch of the PCG ships and aircraft as part of the PCG’s duty to safeguard Filipinos in the country’s waters.

“The PCG will make sure and do what it takes na ligtas ang ating mga kababayang Pilipino na naglalayag sa ating exclusize economic zone (to ensure the safety of Filipinos sailing within our EEZ),” he said.

He said the additional PCG vessels were dispatched in response to the unknown number of Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels that are currently awaiting the civilian convoy in Bajo de Masinloc.

“There’s no denying the fact that there are more CCG vessels deployed. Maco-confirm natin ang sinasabi ni (Sealight Director) Ray Powell na maraming nakabantay na CCG vessels dito (We can confirm Powell’s statement that there are several CCG vessels guarding the area),” he said.

The convoy to Bajo de Masinloc was organized by the Atin Ito Coalition that seeks to bring provisions to other Filipino fishermen in the area.

On its way to the shoal, the convoy is also planning on installing buoys marked with “WPS, Atin Ito (This is Ours)” in certain areas in the WPS. (PNA)

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