By John Lazaro
Spark National Coordinator
We call for caution after the civilian supply mission to islands with Filipino troops in the Southeast Asian sea failed to reach its intended destination.
The supply mission, organized by the Atin Ito coalition and dubbed the “Christmas convoy,” was set to take civilians near Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal, two disputed territories claimed by the Philippines, to deliver gifts and “holiday cheer” to the soldiers stationed there.
But facing pressure from Chinese ships, only one of the 40 vessels in the convoy was able to reach its objective, delivering goods to Lawak Island, Palawan.
While the Atin Ito coalition’s intentions are undeniably good, the message they are sending out could be taken as antagonistic rather than demonstrative of our prudent assertion of the disputed waters.
The way that they have described their encounters with the Chinese vessels is unlikely to ease tensions in any way.
The convoy unnecessarily placed civilians in peril and the entire Southeast Asia region in jitters.
What would we have done if the Chinese vessels did indeed ram into the civilian vessels, sending over a hundred Filipino civilians into the water?
As this was a resupply mission, were the civilians doing anything that well-trained soldiers on regular resupply missions could not have done anyway?
The “Christmas convoy” achieved nothing in the wider effort to prevent an imperialist war between China and the United States.
The goal of political action should always be to enact political change, but it is hard to see what this convoy achieves other than make the Chinese coast guard angrier, and thus make it more likely that the American military steps in sooner.
The sober alternative was not to strengthen the Philippines’ own territorial claims in the region, but to prevent a regional conflagration that would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
What we ultimately want is a peace, but not a fragile one: a lasting peace founded upon cooperation between the Philippines and our neighbors that collectively share the riches Southeast Asian Sea.