China’s Massive Blockading Force Deploys to Scarborough Shoal

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China’s Blockading Force at Scarborough Shoal

China is deploying its largest blockading force to Scarborough Shoal in anticipation of the arrival of the Atin Ito civilian convoy on May 14. Retired US Air Force Colonel Ray Powell, director of Sealight, a transparency project that monitors activities in the South China Sea, reported that at least four China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and 26 large Chinese maritime vessels will be part of the blockade. This does not include the Chinese ships that are not detectable on the automatic identification system (AIS).

Powell stated that this will be the largest blockade he has ever tracked at Scarborough Shoal, highlighting China’s determination to aggressively enforce its claim over the shoal, which it seized from the Philippines in 2012.

The Atin Ito Coalition’s Civilian Supply Mission

This is the second time that the Atin Ito coalition will proceed with its planned civilian supply mission in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The WPS is the official designation by the Philippines for the parts of the South China Sea that fall within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

In their initial journey on December 11, 2023, the coalition successfully conducted its first civilian mission. At least eight of China’s large Qiong Sansha Yu militia ships steamed from the Chinese Bajo Masinloc military base. In addition to these ships, there were 27 ships of the same type in the Bajo de Masinloc-Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal area, along with two large CCG vessels, 5305 and 5402, participating in blockades.

Furthermore, four large People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy vessels and three smaller CCG ships were observed anchored along the pier at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef. The vessels included type 52C and 52D destroyers from the PLA navy, a type 72 II landing ship, a type 53H3 light frigate, and a CCG Hulai II class ship.

For the upcoming civilian mission, Atin Ito plans to sail to Bajo de Masinloc from May 14 to 17 to bring supplies to fishers and install buoys bearing the message: “West Philippine Sea is ours!”

Legitimate Exercise of Filipinos’ Rights

Akbayan Party President and Atin Ito co-convener Rafaela David emphasized that the upcoming civilian mission is a legitimate exercise of Filipinos’ right to movement within the country’s territory. She expressed her disappointment but not surprise at the heavy presence of Chinese vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, stating that it underscores the urgency of civilianizing the area in response to China’s militarization.

David further stated that Beijing’s actions only serve to unite and inspire them to further defend Filipinos’ rights. She affirmed that Atin Ito will press forward with their peaceful voyage undeterred by any intimidation. Their goal is to civilianize the region and safeguard the country’s territorial integrity.

As part of the convoy, participants will install symbolic markers or buoys emblazoned with the rallying cry “WPS, Atin Ito!” (WPS is ours!) to reinforce the country’s territorial integrity.

Source: The Manila Times

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