‘Chinese fishing vessels in WPS are military-controlled’
DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Philippines – Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) are controlled by the military, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday.
The defense chief backed the recent report of Center for Strategic and International Studies that said China’s large fishing vessels are organized into a maritime militia, which are involved in harassment of foreign patrol and fishing vessels in the disputed waters.
“Yes, mga militia yan. They are working under the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy,” he told reporters.
(Yes, they are part of a militia. They are working under the PLA Navy.)
He also said that China’s Coast Guard ships in the disputed waters are also controlled by the military.
But the defense chief said the Philippine government cannot not respond to the threat that could arise from China’s fishing fleet because it risks confrontation.
“Well, anong gagawin natin? Tapatan natin ng militia? Baka mamaya mag-away, magpukpukan dyan. Tayo naman in good faith tayo. The people who are going there are fishermen, hindi militia,” Lorenzana said.
(What can we do? We’ll send our own militia? What if there will be a confrontation? We are acting in good faith. The people who are going there are fishermen and not militia.)
Part of the study recently released by the US think tank put China’s maritime militia on the spotlight.
“Not only does imagery analysis show that most Chinese fishing vessels in the Spratlys are not fishing very often but that they could not do so sustainably. The size and quantity of Chinese vessels observed in the Spratlys suggests a massive overcapacity,” the report said.
“This gross overcapacity combined with their tendency to congregate around both Chinese-occupied reefs and those held by other claimants leads to the conclusion that most of these vessels serve, at least part-time, in China’s maritime militia,” it added.
But Lorenzana said the report on increased fishing vessels were not new.
“Hindi na bago yan. Noon pa yan. Siguro they have been there (since) 2012 nag-umpisa. They are just trying to scare people but we know that they are there actually. Hindi naman nababago ang numbers nila dyan eh. Nung nagpunta tayo ng Pagasa (Thitu) nakita naman natin ang mga barko nila doon diba,” he said.
(That’s not new. They’ve been there even before. Maybe since 2012 when they started. They are just trying to scare people but we know they are there actually. Their numbers do not change. When we went to Pagasa we saw their ships there.)
Early this week, Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo dismissed the study on maritime militia as mere speculation.
“We do not know that yet, that’s just speculation,” he told reporters.
He said the Department of National Defense was prepared to “respond accordingly” should there be any threat from the increased presence of Chinese fishing vessels./gsg
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