MANILA – The "Christmas Convoy" organized by a civilian organization would proceed but its leaders agreed with the government's stance not to go to the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) due to security reasons, a security official said on Tuesday.
"The National Security Council (NSC) met with the leaders of Atin Ito! Coalition last week where -- after a constructive dialogue -- there was a meeting of the minds in the planned civilian-led Christmas Convoy to the WPS," NSC spokesperson and Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.
He said both parties agreed that a civilian convoy to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal would not be advisable at this time.
"Nonetheless, the planned Christmas Convoy will pass through the general vicinity of Ayungin Shoal as far as practicable, on its way to other selected Philippine-occupied features to bring Christmas cheer directly to our troops assigned to those areas as well as to our fisherfolk," Malaya said.
He said the convoy will visit and bring goods to Filipino troops in Pagasa Island.
"There, Christmas gifts and donated supplies for BRP Sierra Madre will be turned over to the Philippine Navy-AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and to the Philippine Coast Guard for delivery during the regular rotation and resupply missions. By visiting the other Philippine-occupied features, the Christmas Convoy will be able to visit a vast area of the WPS and bring Christmas cheer directly to more fisherfolk and frontliners," he added.
Malaya said the agreement also ensures the safety and security of the convoy aside from ensuring the timely delivery of donated items to Filipino fisherfolk and front-liners in the WPS.
This also upholds the Philippines' sovereign rights to the WPS, he added.
"We thank Atin Ito! Coalition for their cooperation and for finding common ground with the government in asserting and defending our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in pursuit of the national interest," Malaya said. (PNA)