It could not be ascertained if the Chinese fishing vessels were part of the same flotilla of more than 250 that converged near Pag-asa in May, apparently to monitor and intimidate Filipino contractors building a beaching ramp and safe harbor in the island town.
AFP
Chinese vessels spotted near Pagasa anew
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Dozens of Chinese fishing boats are once again being monitored near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island, a senior security official disclosed yesterday.

It could not be ascertained if the Chinese fishing vessels were part of the same flotilla of more than 250 that converged near Pag-asa in May, apparently to monitor and intimidate Filipino contractors building a beaching ramp and safe harbor in the island town.

Foreign and local defense security experts described the fishing vessel as Chinese maritime militia ships, directly under the control of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN).

Pag-asa Island is the seat of Kalayaan town, a fifth class and the farthest municipality of Palawan.

“The waters between Pag-asa Island and the Chinese-occupied Zamora (Subi) Reef have become an ideal anchorage area of Chinese vessels,” another security official said.

The official also said the military’s regular air and maritime monitoring and territorial patrol over the country’s Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the South China Sea is now becoming more complicated due to the increase in frequency of the challenges coming from the Chinese in the region.

The Chinese challenge is becoming the new normal in the disputed region, particularly within the Spratlys island chain.

“Almost all of our regular air and naval territorial patrols in the region nowadays are being subjected to challenges by the Chinese, that our men, though it is becoming more complicated, have to deal with professionally to avoid any untoward incident,” the official said.

If not coming from China’s electronics and surveillance ships, these challenges have been coming from Beijing’s highly fortified forward naval and air bases in disputed region.

Gregory Poling of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and international Studies and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said the continuing presence of the Chinese fishing fleet in the Spratlys is in support of China’s enforcement of its maritime and sovereignty claim to almost 90 percent of the South China Sea.

“This is unsurprising – the purpose of employing a maritime militia is to keep aggression below the level of military force and complicate the responses of other parties, in this case chiefly the other claimants (Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan) as well as the United States, by hiding behind a civilian facade,” Poling said.

He added the militia loses much of its value that gives China strong incentive to dissemble and deny evidence of its actions. But that evidence, he added, speaks for itself.

The People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia is not a secret, Poling said, citing Article 38 of the China Military Service Law of 1984, revised in 1998, that calls for the militia to undertake duties related to preparations against war, defend the frontiers and maintain public order and be always ready to join the armed forces to take part in war, resist aggession and defend the motherland.

CHINESE FISHING VESSELS PAG-ASA ISLAND
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