WHILE welcoming a plan of youth volunteers to go on a 30-day voyage to the Kalayaan Island Group in the disputed Spratlys in the South China Sea, military, as well as defense, officials over the weekend warned participants of the risk or danger it may posed owing to the “treacherous” sea.
Members of the group calling itself Kalayaan, Atin ito (Kalayaan, This is Ours) have bared plans to leave mainland Palawan on November 30 and stay on the island group until December 30 this year as a form of peaceful protest to show China, and the whole world, that Filipinos are united in asserting their country’s territorial rights.
“Personally, I am not in favor of that… we endanger unnecessarily the lives of the participants, they will be [taking]unnecessary risk. They do not know how treacherous the sea condition is right now. If they will do that, they are ill-advised,” said Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (Westcom).
Lopez warned that the voyage is not like the Manila-Corregidor run.
“This group or whoever the organizers are [taking]so much risk and endangering the lives of these people,” he pointed out.
One of the organizers, retired Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, a former member of the Philippine Marines, earlier said the youth group composed mostly of college students from 81 provinces nationwide will begin the 30-day protest from Bonifacio Day(November 30) to Rizal Day (December 30).
He said at least 10,000 young people had volunteered to go to Palawan and stage the protest to support the country in asserting its sovereign rights to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“We hoped that after the 30 days of peaceful protest at the [island group]by this youth group supported by the entire population, we will gain the admiration and earned help from the rest of the world,” Faeldon added.
Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, hailed the group for its patriotic commitment.
“Hindi naman bawal yun kaya nga kami morally, sabi namin [It is not prohibited that is why we are saying morally] we are very thankful they are showing their patriotic fervor and their civic mindedness it goes to show na madami pa ring kabataan na nagmamalasakit [That many youths are showing concern] And publicly we are telling them we are proud of you. We are happy with your expression of your patriotic fervor, and we are glad we have so many [young people]who are like this, so morally we support them but materially I’m not aware kung meron tayong commitment ([f we have commitment],” Padilla said.
Director Arsenio Andolong of the Public Affairs Service of the Department of National Defense said he sees nothing wrong with the plan because anyone can travel to islands within the Philippine territory for “as long as they follow safety regulations and observe proper procedures in terms of coordinating with concerned authorities and local governments.”