NSC disapproves proposed Christmas convoy to Ayungin Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — The National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday thumbed down the proposal to conduct a Christmas convoy and civilian mission to BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) due to security reasons.

"While we support, in principle, the intent of the Atin Ito coalition to bring holiday cheer to our WPS frontliners, undertaking such a convoy to Ayungin Shoal at this time of heightened tensions between the Philippines and China is ill-advised," NSC Assistant Director and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said.

The coalition of non-government organizations and people's organizations last month announced a donation drive for soldiers stationed in BRP Sierra Madre. They plan to conduct the civilian mission on Dec. 5.

The NSC has advised the Atin Ito coalition to conduct Christmas programs in “our occupied features in the Kalayaan Island Group where Philippine troops and civilians can be found."

"Other than Ayungin, they can visit the following features: Lawak Island, Kota Island, Likas Island, Pag-asa Island, Parola Island, Panata Island, Patag Island, and Rizal Reef," the NSC added. "There are also frontliners in those features and they also deserve Christmas goodies and donations from the public."

The agency also suggested to the Atin Ito coalition to just turn over the donations to the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard. These will be sent to the troops in BRP Sierra Madre in the next RORE mission.

The NSC said the troops aboard BRP Sierra Madre are "well-supplied" through the regular rotation and resupply (RORE) missions of the government.

Despite the successful RORE missions to BRP Sierra Madre, the China Coast Guard (CCG) has attempted to block the mission. The CCG’s recent attempt to block the RORE mission has prompted Manila to file another diplomatic protest against Beijing.