From GMA News (Jan 7): 57 Kalayaan protesters stranded in Palawan –spokesperson
Fifty-seven youth volunteers who were part of the group that ventured into the Philippine-claimed Pag-asa island in the Spratlys were still stranded in Palawan due to financial reasons, their spokesperson said Thursday.
"May 57 volunteers pa po tayo na naiwan sa ating camp site sa Puerto Prinsesa, Barangay Buenavista, sa Palawan," said Mariel Ipan of the Kalayaan Atin Ito Movement in a phone interview with "News to Go."
Forty-seven members of the group returned to Palawan on Sunday after a week-long stay at Pag-asa island in the disputed territory.
Pag-asa island is part of the Spratlys chain in the South China Sea. China claims most of the sea, but the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have conflicting claims.
"Hanggang ngayon naghahagilap tayo ng mga kababayan natin na gustong tumulong para makauwi ang mga studyanteng ito sa mga probinsya nila," Ipan said.
Ipan said the volunteers were stranded because they did not have enough money to return to their homes.
The group is composed of youths from different provinces, including minors. Ipan said each member joined voluntarily, and that the minors had waiver forms signed by their parents.
Despite the challenges the group is now facing, Ipan believes that their protest raised awareness about the issue.
"Since nag-react yung China sa ginawa nating paglalayag, naniniwala kami na nakita at narinig ng buong mundo yung ginawa nating freedom voyage," Ipan said, referring to Beijing's statement that it was "strongly dissatisfied" by what the group did.
During their stay on the island, Ipan said that they witnessed a Chinese ship and helicopter patrolling the Pag-asa shore.
"Sana ma-realize ng bawat mamayan natin na kailangan na natin magkaisa dahil nasakop na po yung ibang teritoryo natin," Ipan added.
The Philippine government had previously praised the group's "patriotism" but had urged them not to proceed with the trip, while the youth group had accused the Philippine government of not doing enough to stand up to China.