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NTF-WPS: Civilian group free to hold Bajo de Masinloc mission

MANILA: The civil society group “Atin Ito Coalition” is free to hold its “peace and solidarity regatta” aimed at installing markers and buoys in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) on May 15, an official of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said Wednesday.

“The NTF-WPS has no objections to the planned civilian mission to support our fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc. But since it’s a civilian mission, the NTF-WPS has no participation in organizing the activity,” the task force’s spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

Two civilian vessels and about 100 fishing boats are expected to take part in this activity.

Malaya, who is also National Security Council assistant director general, said the group is still seeking clearance from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to “ensure maritime safety for all participants of the said mission.”

Asked what the government would do if Chinese ships harassed the civilian convoy, he said the “PCG will be there to
ensure maritime safety because that’s their mandate.”

In a separate message, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said the group’s mission to the Bajo de Masinloc falls under the “freedom to travel” provision of the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Constitution.

“Hence, it will be allowed to pursue its noble voyage to WPS but the participants are reminded also to be cautious,” he said.

Año, who is also NTF-WPS vice chair, said the PCG would provide assistance in terms of protection and provide medical/rescue assistance if necessary.

“In fact, we laud and admire the participants for their nationalistic and patriotic spirit in coming up with this kind of activity to raise the consciousness of the Filipino people in upholding our national interest,” he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency