Photo shows holding placards headed by Atin Ito! Co-Convenor and Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) President Ed Dela Torre (3rd from right), acclaimed forlk singer Noel Cabangon (4th, left), and 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and PAKISAMA fisherfolk leader Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon (left, beside Dela Torre) - Photo by Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

QUEZON CITY – An alliance of social movements, non-government organizations, fisherfolk groups, artists, citizens, Church leaders, and entrepreneurs on Monday (Nov. 20) announced the two initiatives that they will be conducting for the benefit of the Filipino fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a press conference in Max’s Restaurant in Scout Tuazon, Quezon City, Atin Ito President Rafaela David announced the West Philippine Sea musical, which is slated on Nov. 29, 2023, is a momentous occasion to amplify awareness about the challenges encountered by Filipino fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the WPS.

Renowned artists, including Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel, Lolita Carbon, Bayang Barrios, Gracenote, 6CycleMind, Autotelic, Hey June, Ena Mora, Leanne and Naara, and several others, will join forces to deliver a powerful musical experience.

Through the universal language of music, Atin Ito aims to inspire a solidarity, empathy, and understanding, fostering a collective resolve to stand up for sovereignty and rights and welfare of Filipino fisherfolk and frontliners.

“Pangalawa, On Dec. 5, 2023, Atin Ito will embark on the “Christmas Convoy Civilian Supply Mission to the West Philippine Sea,” David said.

This vital mission, which is now consisting of 40 civilian boats, is dedicated to delivering essential provisions to fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the region.

Beyond its humanitarian objectives, this mission is a bold but peaceful assertion of our nation’s sovereign rights and territorial integrity in the face of persistent aggression and incursion by China.

“Through this collective effort, we aim

 to send a resounding message of unity and resilience, standing strong against challenges to our sovereignty,” David said.

Atin Ito expressed its profound gratitude for the unwavering support extended by Senator Risa Hontiveros, former Senator Manny Pacquiao, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Bishop Virgilio David, Philippine Navy Rear Adm. Rommel Ong (ret.), Taytay, Palawan Vicar Apostolic Bishop Broderick Pabillo, artists such as folk singer Noel Cabangon and several others.

They also lauded the assistance and cooperation extended to them by the men and women of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the preparation of their “Christmas Convoy Civilian Supply Mission to the West Philippine Sea”.

“Lastly, we take note of National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya’s statement regarding our “Christmas Convoy Civilian Supply Mission” to Ayungin Shoal in the WPS,” David said.

Atin Ito stays committed to the well-being of our fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the region.

“We understand and appreciate the NSC’s concerns, and we recognize the security issues in the area. However, we are convinced that our mission is founded on the ideals of peace, solidarity, and a real desire to respond to the pressing needs of our fisherfolk and frontliners confronted with immense problems in the WPS,” she said.

“It is with optimism and confidence that we express our belief in the support of the government. We are open to more constructive dialogues to address any apprehensions and ensure that our mission aligns with national interests and security considerations,” she added.

“Together, we can work to uphold the well-being of our fellow Filipinos in the WPS,” David said.

“Ang 40 bangkang pangisda na kasama sa supply mission convoy ay may mga mangingisda na maalam sa lugar ng West Philippine Sea na pupuntahan natin sa Dec. 5, 2023,” she added.

Deputy Senate Minority Leader Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that despite the numerous diplomatic protests and the statements made by the international community, China would not stop in claiming more territories in the WPS.

Hontiveros cited that many Chinese nationals are buying “all access” Philippine passport in the amount reaching up to Php500,000 considering the tension in the West Philippine Sea.

“Let us support the Christmas convoy, musical event and other endeavors supporting our fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.

Hontiveros noted that the Magna Carta of Seafarers has just been passed in the Senate. 

“Ang seafarers at marino ay sumusuporta rin po sa mga malilit na mangingisda,” she said. 

PN Rear Adm. Rommel Ong (ret.) emphasized that “we express our manifestation of our sovereignty and territorial rights in the WPS.”

“It’s more of energy security and food security issues are the things that we have to resolve than the blockade being done by Chinese Coast Guard in Ayungin Shoal in the WPS,” Ong said.

“More than the concept of sovereign rights, yung ating access to energy and fish for our fisherfolk in the WPS,” he added.

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) President Ed Dela Torre said that the Climate Change issue is not that more important than the issue in the WPS.

The Philippines was supposed to be an Archipelagic and Maritime Center of the world.

“Ang ating kampanya at partisipasyon ay ang concerns ng ating fisherfolk and frontliners sa WPS,” Dela Torre said.

“Pangalawa, I find it interesting that as a former priest, ang Simbahan ay nagkaroon ng interes sa WPS,” he added.

“Panimulang kampanya lamang po ito at hindi sya parang pelikulang may simula at wakas kundi para syang Netflix,” Dela Torre said.

“Ang pagsuporta ng Simbahan ay malaking bagay. Christmas ito. Ang institutional at organizational role ng Simbahan ay hindi maliit na bagay. Ito ay malaking bagay. Ang kontribusyon ng Catholic Church ay malaking bagay. Ang preferential treatment for the poor of the Church is a big thing,” he added.

Ka Uper Alerosa, president of the Pambansang Samahan sa Kanayunan, said that “Malaking tulong po ang pagpapaabot ng impormasyon ng media sa ginagawang coverage ng press conference na ito.”

Alerosa also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Sen. Hontiveros and to all the groups and colleagues in the Atin Ito.

He noted that the fisherfolk is the poorest of the poor sector in the Philippine society which should not be the case because the Philippines has vast marine resources.

“When a fisherman goes beyond the 15-kilometer up to the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, he is confronted with even more problems, especially in the WPS,” Alerosa said.

“Inakala namin na nang manalo tayo sa korte ay panatag na ang ating kalooban, subalit mas malala pa ang nangyari at dulot na problema sa mangingisda,” he added.

“Hindi lamang po kami simpleng mangingisda kundi nagtatanggol po kami sa ating teritoryo, sapagkat ang Pilipinas ay ating teritoryo at ang West Philippine Sea Atin Ito,” Alerosa said.

“May ginawa na po kaming nationwide consultation sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao kung ano ang ating gagawin kung sakaling di natin makuha ang likas yaman sa West Philippine Sea at para hindi ito masalaula,” he added.

Cabangon said that “kapag may ganitong pagkilos, ay mayroong musikang nakapaloob.”

He expressed gratitude for the participation of Dancel, Carbon, Barrios, Gracenote, 6CycleMind, Autotelic, Hey June, Mora, Leanne and Naara in the forthcoming concert for the donation campaign for the benefit of the fisherfolk communities and frontliners in the WPS.

The free concert will be held in the Bahay ng Alumni in University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Nov. 29, 2023 at 7 in the evening.

Cabangon added that monetary donations will not be accepted but only donations “in kind” for the supply mission to the WPS on Dec. 5, 2023. – By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.