By Priam Nepomuceno

PCG spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The aid mission of civilian group ‘Atin Ito Coalition’ is already a victory for the Philippines even without the convoy reaching very close to the Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said on Wednesday.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), said the group could consider its job done once it managed to resupply Filipino fisherfolk in the area of the Bajo de Masinloc.

“The primary objective of the ‘Atin Ito Coalition’ is to provide aid to Filipino fishermen fishing (in the area of Bajo de Masinloc). Filipino fishermen generally do not mingle with the China Coast Guard,” Tarriela said in Filipino on the sidelines of the Philippine Information Agency’s press conference on the WPS.

Once a large grouping of Filipino fishing vessels were spotted and with no Chinese ships in sight, he said the “Atin Ito Coalition” could approach these ships and give them the aid.

On Wednesday, the group’s convoy successfully installed buoys bearing the words ‘WPS Atin Ito’ within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The group also completed the first round of distributing supplies, including fuel and food packs, to Filipino fishers. 

The contingent is set to proceed to the second phase of its voyage, aimed at reaching Panatag Shoal for another round of supply distribution to Filipino fisherfolk in the area.

Prayers sought

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked the faithful to pray for the group’s mission.

“Let us accompany the civilian supply mission to the West Philippine Sea with our prayers. Let us pray to the Lord that no untoward incident happens to the fleet of five civilian marine vessels and one hundred small fishing boats that are presently navigating their way through our exclusive economic zone to deliver fuel and food supplies to our fisherfolks in the vicinity of the Panatag Shoal,” CBCP president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said in a social media post.

The Caloocan prelate also believed that the group only has good intentions in carrying out the mission.

“This is also a good test case of civilian supremacy over the military, which is essential in a true democracy,” he said.

David added such act is “a better way to express our unity as a nation and assert our sovereignty”.

The group’s mission is set to wrap up on Friday. (with Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)