Pinoy fishermen eyed as West Philippine Sea militia â defense chief
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Senate finance committee, which is deliberating on the Department of National Defense (DND)’s proposed P283.2-billion budget for 2021, that the Navy will look into the possibility of forming fishing militias to help protect the country’s waters and fishing resources while defusing tensions.
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Pinoy fishermen eyed as West Philippine Sea militia — defense chief

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino fishermen are willing to be trained and organized to become the country’s maritime militia to counter China’s massive deployment of paramilitary fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

Lorenzana told the Senate finance committee, which is deliberating on the Department of National Defense (DND)’s proposed P283.2-billion budget for 2021, that the Navy will look into the possibility of forming fishing militias to help protect the country’s waters and fishing resources while defusing tensions.

Sen. Imee Marcos asked the defense chief if there is anything the Armed Forces is doing to address the encroachment or “swarming” of Chinese fishing vessels that are actually deputized and commanded by the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.

“We are aware that the other side is using what we call the civilian militias but actually are part of their Navy and although they are there, hindi naman tayo minomolestiya (we’re not being molested), they’re just there, they’re also fishing, they’re also acting as fishermen and fishing with big boats, I don’t know how we can develop such kind of effort,” Lorenzana told the hearing.

The senator, however, said fishing communities and local government units in Philippine-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in Pag-asa Island and in Zambales, have been clamoring to organize themselves into militias and are just waiting for the Navy to assist them.

“Don’t we have any intention to develop a counterpart effort?” she asked.

“We do. We do, Mr. Chairman, but we need to procure some capital assets like ships for them so they can also operate in our maritime domain,” Lorenzana replied.

Marcos said the defense establishment cannot just let the local fishing communities wait as they “are willing to be trained and waiting for the Navy or the DND to call upon them in some way so they can organize and at least deter.”

Lorenzana said he would ask the Navy to study organizing Filipino fishermen into maritime militias.

The defense chief also said the Navy and the Air Force continue to patrol the West Philippine Sea even as there is no letup in government efforts to improve facilities in the nine islands Filipinos occupy.

He said the airstrip on Pag-asa Island is expected to be fully paved next year – strong and big enough to allow more equipment to be brought in to build facilities for the civilian community.

In existence for decades, the state-backed Chinese fishing militia fleet is actually armed and plays a key role in China’s strategy for seizing the entire South China Sea without firing a shot. Its actual strength is unknown but is capable of undertaking various actions like swarming other claimants’ vessels or providing intelligence. The swarms are backed by Chinese coast guard and naval units.

Vietnam formed its own maritime militia in 2009 to deter Beijing’s armed fishing force.

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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