Civilian convoy heads towards Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea

A civilian convoy set sail on Wednesday towards a China-controlled reef in the South China Sea in order to distribute provisions to Filipino fishermen and assert the Philippines’ rights to the disputed waters. The convoy, which includes around 100 people on four commercial fishing vessels and smaller outriggers, is being escorted by a Philippine Coast Guard boat.

The trip to Scarborough Shoal comes after a recent incident where China Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon at Philippine government boats in the same area. The organizers of the convoy, Atin Ito, stated that their mission is peaceful, based on international law, and aimed at asserting the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the region.

Despite reports of a heavy presence of Chinese vessels near the shoal, the group remains undeterred and plans to drop buoys marked “WPS is ours” in the area. Scarborough Shoal has been a potential flashpoint since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, disregarding rival claims by the Philippines and other countries. Tensions in the region have escalated as Manila pushes back against China’s assertiveness. This is the second civilian convoy organized by Atin Ito, with a previous trip in December being aborted due to shadowing by Chinese vessels.

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