Philippine ex-rebel soldier to make ‘patriotic’ voyage
A former captain in the Philippine Marines implicated in two attempts to topple former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced on Tuesday that he will embark on a “patriotic” voyage to islets along the Reed Bank in the disputed South China Sea to protest against the mainland’s infringement on Philippine sovereignty.
Nicanor Faeldon, who gained national and international attention for decrying the alleged corruption under the Arroyo government, will start the voyage April 30 from Batanes, the Philippines’ northernmost island province, and is scheduled to arrive in October near the western island of Palawan, near the disputed Spratly Islands.
Faeldon told the press at the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the South China Sea issue cannot be settled by the government alone and that he wants to call for support from all Filipinos for the government’s efforts to defend its sovereignty.
Faeldon participated as one of the alleged leaders of a military mutiny against the Arroyo administration in July 2009 and was granted amnesty by President Benigno Aquino III in April 2011.
After a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Huangyan Island or Panatag Shoal in the South China Sea between mainand China and the Philippines occurred in May 2012, Faeldon put forward a plan to fish in the disputed shoal to claim the country’s sovereignty over it, but the plan was withdrawn due to discouragement by the government.
This time around, Faeldon said he will invite fishermen and other patriots to join the trip and hopes to attract at least one civilian vessel from each province to join the ranks to demonstrate Filipino opposition to mainland China’s intrusion into the South China Sea through its land reclamation projects.
If all goes well, a fleet of some 80 fishing and civilian ships will accompany Faeldon when he arrives in Palawan, he said.
Satellite images released recently by the Philippine military show that mainland China has been carrying out land reclamation work on at least seven islands in the South China Sea, a move that has prompted the Philippines to accuse mainland China of infringing on its sovereignty and undermining the marine environment.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.