Filipinos call for supplies to spread Christmas cheer for troops stationed in South China Sea

A coalition of civilian groups in the Philippines has started a months-long donation campaign to collect essential goods and deliver them to troops stationed at a rusting warship in the disputed South China Sea to spread some festive cheer during Christmas as a maritime row between Manila and Beijing remains on the boil.

The initiative, organised by multiple NGOs, church leaders and political parties, will also include a concert in honour of the fishing communities living in provinces near the resource-rich waterway. Some proceeds from the charity drive would be distributed to the fishermen as well.

The alliance said it aimed to undertake a “Christmas civilian supply mission” to Second Thomas Shoal to “improve the soldiers’ living conditions and operational capabilities”.

Philippines’ Marcos Jnr hails ‘progress’ on South China Sea fishing ban talks

The Philippines intentionally grounded the BRP Sierra Madre in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claim to the outcrop, which Manila calls Ayungin.

China, which repeatedly called the Southeast Asian nation to tow away the second world war-era vessel, has in the past blocked naval resupply missions to the shoal by using the water cannon against Philippine boats.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr’s administration said it has no intention to remove the ship, and the senate last week allotted 600 million pesos (US$10.6 million) to build permanent facilities that would serve as lodging for troops manning the military outpost on the crumbling barge.

Akbayan party, one of the coalition members, urged Marcos to back the voyage, saying Beijing has “no standing” in the West Philippine Sea.

“As Filipinos, we have the right to move freely within our country, and this right is protected by our constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” party chief Rafaela David said.

A Philippine fishing boat sails past a Chinese militia ship near the Chinese-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: AFP

The West Philippine Sea is the term used by Manila to describe the eastern parts of the South China Sea that are within its exclusive economic zone and territorial waters.

The coalition also accused China of depriving local communities of their fishing and livelihood activities by preventing them from entering the lagoons claimed by the Philippines, the Rappler news site reported on Monday.

According to data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the South China Sea accounted for 6 per cent of the country’s total fisheries production as of 2022.

The agency in June said fish catch in the hotly-contested sea declined by 7 per cent last year to 275,872 tonnes from 295,332 tonnes in 2021.

It added geopolitical tensions, erratic weather and typhoons contributed to the decline.


Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost all the South China Sea – where the Philippines and several other nations have competing claims – and has rejected a 2016 international ruling on the territorial dispute in Manila’s favour.

Meanwhile, Canada has said it would give the Philippines free access to its satellites, that would allow maritime officials to track and detect ships, including the ones that switch off their location transmitters, and keep a tab on vessels involved in illegal fishing in the country’s waters.

Canadian envoy David Hartman said a defence attaché would also be deployed to Manila this month amid “worrisome behaviour” in the South China Sea.

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