QUEZON CITY – “Atin Ito”, a loose gathering and campaign of social movements, non-government organizations (NGOs), fisherfolk groups, concerned artists, Church leaders and entrepreneurs, on Monday, October 2 launched a campaign to mobilize various sectors of Philippine society to honor and support West Philippine Sea (WPS) fisherfolk and frontliners.
Atin Ito is comprised of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), the Center for Agrarian Reform for Empowerment and Transformation (CARET), Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Team Manila Lifestyle, concerned artists, Akbayan Party and Akbayan Youth.
In a press conference in Limbaga Restaurant in Quezon City, Edicio dela Torre, the president of the PRRM, said that the PRRM was established in 1952 during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay.
Dela Torre noted that there was a “Maritime and Archipelagic National Awareness (MANA) Month” in September every year under a Presidential Proclamation. He was the Director General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) during the time of President Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada.
He said that they will organize a “Christmas donation drive” in schools, churches, communities, and workplaces to collect needed resources such as food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities for WPS fisherfolks.
The donations will be provided to fisherfolk communities in the provinces of Zambales, Palawan, Mindoro, and Batangas.
Likewise, Atin Ito said that “today’s gathering is so much more than a statement of solidarity. It is a declaration of loyalty to our fisherfolk, a commitment to the defense of their welfare, and a reminded that love for country means defending its people against those who would do them harm.”
“And finally, we are preparing a ‘Christmas convoy civilian supply missions to the West Philippine Sea’, particularly to the BRP Sierra Madre, and deliver much needed supplies to our frontliners, such as food, medical supplies, drinking and water and other essential goods,” Atin Ito added.
The movement invited Filipinos to join them and opened the call to everyone who shares the belief that might does not make right, that the West Philippine Sea fisherfolk and frontliners deserve people navigation and a dignified livelihood.
Ka Uper Aleroza, president of the PKSK, said that “Matagal nang itinuring na poorest of the poor ang mga magsasaka. Mayroon tayong 7,100 islands, eh bakit naghihirap ang mangingisda hindi lamang sa pangingisda kundi marami pang iba.”
“Sa 7,100 islands, 550 hectares sa Ayungin Shoal, 33.1 billion pesos ang nawawala sa Pilipinas,” Aleroza added.
“Sana pagpatuloy ang pagsuporta sa amin. Salamat sa nag-initiate para magkaroon ng donation fund drive para sa West Philippine Sea,” Aleroza said.
Ka Rene Cerilla, president of the PAKISAMA, said that “Nararamdaman po ng ating grupo ang nangyayari sa West Philippine Sea. Napananahon po na hindi lamang ang sundalo ang lumaban, kundi tayo po mismo ang lumaban para magtipon at mangalap ng mga bagay na makakatulong sa ating mga frontliners.”
“Samahan n’yo po kami na pumalaiot hanggang doon sa BRP Sierra Madre kung papayagan ng panahon. Samahan din po ninyo kami sa mga aktibidades sa pangangalap ng donasyon para mga mangingisda. Ang dagat na ito ay sa inyo at sa kanya kaya atin ito,” Cerilla added.
The campaigners are also planning a “Paskong Handog” musical event for WPS fisherfolk communities and frontliners.
They said that there will be no entrance fee and that they will merely accept non-monetary donations in exchange for admission.
Jun Sabayton, actor, comedian, and director, said that “ako ay kahanay ng mga artist na sumusuporta na ang West Philippine Sea ay atin. ‘9-9’ ang mukha nyo.”
He was referring to the claim of China in the West Philippine Sea by coming up with the “9-9” map of the South China Sea.
For her part, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, expressed her most profound gratitude to all the groups that are participating in the movement for the West Philippine Sea.
“Napakasahol na ang ginagawa ng Tsina sa ating mamamayan. I filed Senate Resolution 744 calling on the Senate to support the PCG (Philippine Coast Guard in guarding the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.
“A total P118 million only in confidential intelligence fund (CIF) was received by the PCG from 2013 until 2023 at pinagkakasya lamang nila ito sa pagtatanggol ng West Philippine Sea,” she added.
“Ang civilian agencies na tumatanggap ng CIF tulad ng OVP (Office of the Vice President) at DepEd (Department of Education) na dapat ay ibigay sa mga agencies na nangangalaga ng West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros stressed.
“Ang mangingisda ang tinuturing na pinakamahirap na sektor ng bansa. Nakakakot na baka hindi maibalik ang damage sa coral reef sa Scaborough Shoal o Ayungin Shoal,” she said.
“Sa isang Senate Resolution, nananawagan din ako ng isang imbestigasyon tungkol sa malawakang pagkawasak ng coral reef sa Ayungin Shoal,” she added.
Hontiveros also called on the government to hold China liable for the massive destruction of the coral reef in Ayungin Shoal and for China to abide by the United Nations Covenant on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as the Hague ruling on the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Rafaela David, president of Akbayan Party, said that “Nananawagan kami kay President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. na suportahan ang Christmas convoy at civilian supply missions sa West Philippine Sea.”
“We strongly urge the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to fully support the Christmas convoy and civilian supply mission to the WPS.
Atin Ito! As Filipinos, we have the right to move freely within our country, and this right is protected by our Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” David added.
“China has no standing in the WPS. It has no right to place floating barriers and deny our fisherfolk access to the area. Hindi private resort ng China and West Philippine Sea,” she stressed.
David also said that there are donation drop-off locations where non-monetary donations such as food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities for the WPS fisherfolks.
The drop-off locations are Team Manila Lifestyle in Suez Street corner Zapote, Makati City; PRRM in 56 Mother Ignacia Street corner Dr. Lazcano Street, Quezon City; Akbayan Party in 23 Maalindog Street, UP Village, Quezon City; and CARET in Unit 213 Eagle Court Condomunium, 26 Matalino Street, Barangay Pinyahan, Qjezon City.
For his part, Rik Dela Cruz, deputy secretary general for Mindanao, Akbayan Youth, said that “Nananawagan muli kami kay Pangulong Marcos na maghain muli ng petisyon sa United Nations General Assembly kaugnay sa mga pangyayari sa West Philippine Sea.”
On the other hand, Maurine Ignacio, president of Fishermen and Farmers Association of the Philippines, said that “Binabawalan kami na mangisda sa Bajo Masinloc ng China Coast Guard.”
The group has 50 members since 2019 and was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and with the Local Government of Morong, Bataan.
“Nakakatanggap kami ng “ayuda” mula sa Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and the LGU of Morong, Bataan noong panahon ng Covid-19 pandemic 2019 hanggang 2022,” Ignacio added.
“Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, kapag nasalanta ng bagyo o Habagat, nagbibigay ng bangka mula sa DOLE at sa munisipyo binibigay ang motor ng bangka,” she said.
“Sana ay livelihood assistance na ang ibigay sa amin para pangmatagalang kabuhayan para sa mga mangingisda ng Morong,” she added. – By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.