‘Salamat sa katapangan’: Civilian-led coalition heading to Panatag Shoal for resupply mission lauded

May 16, 2024 - 2:31 PM
Panatag Shoal
A Philippine fishing boat is shadowed by the Chinese Coast Guard near Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on September 2023 (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

“Salamat sa katapangan.”

Online Filipinos saluted the civilian convoy who sailed near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) to deliver supplies to fishermen who ventured into the area despite the presence of Chinese militia vessels.

The convoy is organized by the Atin Ito Coalition, which is composed of volunteers and some members of the following organizations:

  • New Masinloc Fishermen’s Associations
  • Subic Commercial Fishing Association Incorporated
  • Mabayo Agri Aqua Association
  • Pambansang Katipunan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan
  • Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka
  • Center for Agrarian Reform, Empowerment and Transformation
  • Student Council Alliance of the Philippines
  • Akbayan Youth

Local fishermen also participated in the mission.

Other participants who were in the boats were foreign observers, journalists and fishing crew.

The convoy was escorted by the Philippine Coast Guard.

The coalition successfully resupplied Filipino fishermen in the area of the Panatag Shoal on Wednesday with fuel and food packs, among others.

They also installed buoys bearing the words “WPS Atin Ito” within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

WPS is short for West Philippine Sea, which is the designation for parts of the South China Sea that are included in Manila’s EEZ which covers up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the Philippine shores.

The EEZ is where the coastal country has sovereign rights over the sea’s exploration and use of its marine resources

Meanwhile, reports said two China Coast Guard vessels shadowed and tried to block the convoy, which led to an exchange of “radio challenges” between PCG and its Chinese counterpart.

PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said that while the coalition did not reach very close to the Panatag Shoal, it was successful in its resupply mission.

A day before the convoy sailed, an advance team sent by the civilian-led coalition successfully breached the Chinese blockade and reached Panatag Shoal to distribute supplies.

The resupply mission will happen until May 17.

The Panatag Shoal is a triangle-shaped chain of coral reefs with several rocks encircling a 150-square-kilometer-wide lagoon. It is also known as Bajo de Masinloc, the name given to the area by the Spanish colonizers before.

The shoal is rich in marine resources and is recognized as a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos.

Meanwhile, the May 15 mission was lauded by Pinoys who praised the initiative amid the constant threat of the Chinese encroaching the area.

“Grabe! Salamat sa katapangan at pagmamahal sa bayan! Atin ang West Philippine Sea!!!!” an online user exclaimed in response to a video of the convoy’s fishing boats.

“Ito ‘yong mga hero natin matapang sa pagmamahal sa bansa natin. Mga senator, congressman, hanggang dada lang sila, walang tapang. Kaya nilang gawin [magpalamig] lang sa mga opisina nila,” another Pinoy commented.

“Buti pa ‘tong mga ‘to, matatapang. ‘Yung dating presidente na nag-promise na magje-jetski kuno tapos magwawagayway ng watawat ng Pilipinas ay nandun, sinisira ‘yung gobyerno. Ningas kugon na, sinungaling at traydor pa,” wrote another X user.

“Buti pa mga ordinaryong mangingisda natin. Saludo ako sa katapangan niyo. Pero dun sa kwentong Jetski, hanggang yabang lang sa bunganga ang tapang,” commented a different Pinoy.

The online users were referring to former president Rodrigo Duterte’s past campaign promise to go to the West Philippine Sea in a jet ski to assert the country’s sovereignty.

On the other hand, another Filipino said that such initiatives should not be “romanticized.”

“They just had enough, lalo na apektado ang kabuhayan nila. Wala namang tumutulong o relief [goods] mula sa gobyerno,” an online user commented, referring to the fishermen part of the convoy.

“Kung ‘di sila kikilos, walang makakain. Let us not romanticize, yes, nakatuwa and nakakalungkot at the same time, kasi sila na mismo ang gumagalaw,” the X user added.

China seized Panatag Shoal in 2012 after reneging on a United States-brokered deal.

Manila and Beijing were supposed to leave the area simultaneously and turn to diplomacy to solve the dispute.

China did not leave in that year and has encroached on the area since.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the areas contested by Beijing in the South China Sea.