Shekinah Jedidiah M. Alima 

A civilian-led mission on Thursday aimed at resupplying Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal, known in the Philippines as Panatag Shoal, has sparked tensions with China for taking advantage of its “goodwill.” 

Photos Courtesy of AFP/Atin Ito Coalition.

The “Atin Ito” (This is Ours) mission sought to express solidarity with the Philippines’ reclamation of the disputed territory at the West Philippine Sea. It comprised a convoy of outrigger boats carrying fishermen, activists, civil society members, church leaders, media personnel and volunteers.

Following its accomplishment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin cautioned the Philippines that any actions disrupting their claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea would be met with “countermeasures.”

“If the Philippines abuses China’s goodwill and infringes upon China’s territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction, we will defend our rights and take countermeasures in accordance with the law,” he reiterated in a press conference.

Responding to China’s warning, Leonardo Cuaresma, President of the New Masinloc Fishermen Association in Zambales, highlighted the dangers faced by the mission. 

“Parang sinabi niyong lumapit tayo kay Kamatayan ‘pag tumuloy tayo,” Cuaresma said on an Inquirer interview.

Cuaresma added that while they declared it a “success,” the vessels were unable to reach the shoal itself, which had already reached 25 to 30 nautical miles, due to the heavy presence of the Chinese Coast Guard that may hit them with a water cannon.

Two days before the marine convoy, China had already taken action to watch out for the resupply mission’s actions, scattering the Chinese Coast Guard around Scarborough Shoal.

Heightened tensions in the South China Sea began after the Marcos administration began sending vessels toward the territories that China claims to be theirs, coupled with its rejection of the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal award favoring the Philippines.