CBCP head seeks peaceful solution to WPS dispute

May 17, 2024 - 11:38 AM
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Atin Ito Coalition
The “Atin Ito” civilian mission’s advance vessels breached China’s blockade and reached Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea to distribute supplies to fishermen on May 16, 2024 (Atin Ito Coalition via CBCP News)

A civilian-led supply mission to the West Philippine Sea has received backing from the head of Catholic bishops’ leadership, who urged a peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said a “stubborn” civilian presence is indeed the peaceful approach to the conflict “instead of a joint military show-of-force”.

“This is a better way to express our unity as a nation and assert our sovereignty towards China,” David said.

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

The bishop warned against succumbing to the demands of those “who are eager to involve us in a violent proxy war that would only benefit the major arm industries.”

“No to imperialist bullying and no to geopolitical warmongering. Yes to peace and mutual respect of sovereignty among civilized nations! God bless our homeland,” he added.

Atin Ito Coalition on Thursday declared “mission accomplished” as the advance team it sent on May 14, a day before the official supply mission began, reached the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, evading China’s blockade.

Calling it a “significant breakthrough,” the coalition of civic and fisherfolk and farmer groups said the team swiftly delivered crucial provisions, including fuel and food packs, to Filipino fishermen working in the area.

In February, six bishops whose dioceses are in areas near the WPS urged the government to shield the fisherfolk from China’s “aggressive intrusions”.

In a pastoral exhortation, they underscored that the WPS is not merely a territorial issue but also concerns the lives, well-being, and the future of the local fishermen.

However, the bishops emphasized that resorting to war cannot be considered a “moral option.”

“But neither is it just for the leaders of our country to allow our own fisherfolk to be driven out of fishing grounds over which international law recognizes our rights,” they said.