To counter the Chinese maritime militia operating in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Navy is building up its own maritime militia force to keep an eye on the country’s territorial waters.
Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo at a Senate budget hearing on Monday said that the force will be “our counterparts for Chinese maritime militia”.
The Chinese maritime militia is a covert fleet of fishing trawlers serving as a support force to the People’s Liberation Army. Hundreds of its vessels loiter near Philippine-occupied areas in the West Philippine Sea and the rest of South China Sea.
The Chinese vessels have also been harassing or attacking vessels from other countries in the region, including Philippine fishing boats.
The admiral said the Philippine Navy militia would patrol areas in the West Philippine Sea and Bajo de Masinloc and will be deployed to Naval Forces Northern Luzon and Naval Forces West.
“Aside from data gathering, they will also be protecting our fishermen as they go fishing in our exclusive economic zone,” he said.
Vietnam has its own maritime militia, too, tasked with defending Vietnamese waters.
The first batches of maritime militia forces had been originally recruited by the Philippine Army to form part of its Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, or Cafgu militia force.
Admiral Bacordo said control of the militia force would soon be transferred from the Army to the Navy.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday described the situation in the West Philippine Sea as “stable and manageable,” which will enable the country’s defence sector to focus more on internal threats.
“The external threat is being managed by our foreign affairs [department]. The situation in the West Philippine Sea is stable at the moment and manageable,” Lorenzana said during the Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) on Monday.
“As far as we are concerned, we can focus more our attention on the internal threats which are to contain the communist insurgency and the terrorists,” he added.
Lorenzana made the remarks after being asked by Senator Risa Hontiveros about what he considers as the biggest threats, whether external or internal, the country is currently facing.
“We have analyzed the threats to the country and the greatest threats that we see at the moment are one: the communist insurgency that is still going on all over the country. Number two is the terrorist threat, which we still have not addressed,” Lorenzana said.
While Hontiveros said she understands the “enumeration” made by the defence chief, the senator said she would have expected that the DND’s top priority would be to address external threats, specifically the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.
Nevertheless, Hontiveros acknowledged previous statements made by Lorenzana “reflecting this primary concern” on external threats facing the Philippines.
The DND is proposing a PHP209.1-billion budget for 2021, an allocation Hontiveros noted is bigger than that of the Department of Health (DOH).
“The fourth biggest priority of the 2021 proposed national budget goes to the defence department, bigger even that the health department, although we are in the middle of a health crisis,” the lawmaker said.
“In any case, our defence establishment and the budget its requesting has to be tailored towards the threats the country is expecting to face,” she added. (Source: INQUIRER.net)