Filipino protesters land on disputed island in South China Sea

Describing their expedition as a 'a patriotic voyage,' the protesters planned to camp on the island for three days in a symbolic act of defiance against China.

Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters/File
A group of Filipino protesters has landed on the Pagasa Island, shown here in a 2011 file photo, in the South China Sea in protest against China's growing presence in the region.

A group of Filipino protesters has landed on a disputed Philippine-held island in the South China Sea, a local government official said on Sunday, in a risky expedition that may trigger a strong reaction from China.

About 50 protesters, most of them students, reached Pagasa island in the Spratly archipelago on Saturday in a stand against what they say is Beijing's creeping invasion of the Philippine exclusive economic zone, said Eugenio Bito-onon, the island's mayor.

"The 'freedom voyage' arrived at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday from Balabac island on a motor launch," Mr. Bito-onon told Reuters, adding the protesters left southern Palawan on Thursday in fine weather to make the long sea crossing.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims on the strategic waters.

Describing their expedition as a "a patriotic voyage," the protesters, led by an ex-marine captain, planned to camp on Pagasa for three days in a symbolic act of defiance against China.

"We encourage the highest leadership of the country to inform the people correctly without sugar coating the truth about Chinese invasion of our exclusive economic zone," the protesters said in a post on Facebook.

Government and military officials had tried to prevent the group from sailing to the disputed waters, citing security and safety reasons after a storm in the South China Sea earlier this month.

The Philippines was also concerned about China's reaction to the trip as Manila has been trying to calm tensions heightened by Beijing's rapid expansion in the South China Sea – building seven artificial islands in the disputed waters.

The Philippines has challenged Beijing before the arbitration court in The Hague, a case Beijing has not recognized.

A spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino said in a radio interview on Sunday the military was closely monitoring the trip and would assist the protesters if necessary.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Filipino protesters land on disputed island in South China Sea
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today