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South China Sea: Philippine civilian boat convoy drops plan to sail closer to Scarborough Shoal

A convoy of boats carrying Philippine civilians bearing supplies for Filipino fishers has abandoned plans to sail closer to a China-held reef off the Southeast Asian country, organisers said on Thursday.

Atin Ito (“This Is Ours”) coalition spokesman Emman Hizon declared “Mission accomplished”, telling reporters on Thursday that an “advance team” had already distributed fuel and other assistance to Filipino fishermen a day earlier about 46-56km (29-35 miles) from the disputed shoal.

“Atin Ito will now proceed to conduct the final leg of supply distribution in the current area, as there are no more Filipino fishers in BdM,” he said, using the acronym for the shoal also known to Filipinos as Bajo de Masinloc.

Hizon said in a message to reporters that the group had received reports its advance team was later “sent away by various Chinese vessels”.

The Chinese foreign ministry had warned the convoy on Wednesday against any attempt to infringe on Beijing’s “indisputable sovereignty” over Scarborough Shoal.

An aerial reconnaissance flight saw 19 Chinese vessels including a warship and eight coastguard vessels patrolling around the shoal on Wednesday, the Philippine coastguard said.

The Filipino aid convoy, comprising four wooden-hulled fishing boats and a coastguard escort, was about 108km southeast of Scarborough Shoal at 6:00am (local time).

It was being tracked by a nearby China coastguard vessel, the Philippine coastguard said.

“Despite China’s massive blockade, we managed to breach their illegal blockade, reaching Bajo de Masinloc to support our fishers with essential supplies,” the head of the coalition, Rafaela David, said in a statement.


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