PH Coast Guard: No proof Chinese boats in West PH Sea are part of militia
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Coast Guard commandant Admiral Joel Garcia on Friday argued that there was no sufficient evidence to prove that Chinese fishing boats in the West Philippine Sea are serving as part of a maritime militia.
In a press briefing, he said reports stating that Chinese fishing vessels staying in the West Philippine Sea are controlled by the Chinese coast guard or military may be speculations by international media.
“Kung titingnan po natin, wala pong masasabing ebidensya na sila ay hawak ng military or Chinese coast guard. Ito ay kuro-kuro po lamang ng mga international reporters at conjectures,” he told reporters.
(Looking at it, there is no evidence that proves that they are controlled by the military or Chinese coast guard. These are all speculations of international media and conjectures.)
These Chinese boats, usually complemented by a Chinese coast guard vessel, have been frequently reported and documented to be part of a paramilitary force that bolsters Beijing’s presence in contested waters in the South and East China Seas.
The presence of these Chinese boats near Pag-Asa Island has notably increased since 2018 after the Philippines began the construction of a beaching ramp and sheltered port.
The Philippines military previously said the boats were usually stationary and were likely monitoring the construction activities on the island.
In 2019, the Philippine government had filed several diplomatic protests on the sustained presence of these Chinese vessels.
Garcia said these Chinese boats would not be part of a high-level meeting set next week during the port visit of a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship and a CCG director-general.
“On the part of the Philippine government, hindi po nararapat na bigyan po natin ng kasiguraduhan. Wala po tayong ebidensya na sila ay nanunugkulan para sa interest ng military or coast guard. Hindi ito karapat-dapat na pag-usapan,” he said.
(On the part of the Philippine government, we can’t be sure about this. We don’t have enough evidence that they work for the military or coast guard. It’s not worthy to talk about.)
But even the defense department has earlier acknowledged that China is using its fishing boats to conduct activities for the state.
In a report to Congress last year, the Department of National Defense said China is likely to continue using the vessels to gain an advantage in the West Philippine Sea without provoking a conventional military response.
“Apparently, China has been utilizing fishing vessels to discreetly conduct surveillance, search and rescue operations as well as provide assistance to law enforcement agencies,” it said.
“There is high possibility that Beijing will continue the employment of these vessels, which could be used for asymmetric warfare of sea control and sea denial, such as swarming tactic and ramming of other claimants’ vessels in the area, enabling it to make advancements in the maritime region without causing tension in the area,” it added.