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PH Navy: 1K civilian boats needed in WPS to match China's maritime militia

PH Navy: 1K civilian boats needed in WPS to match China's maritime militia

Around 1,000 civilian boats should be deployed in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to match the number of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the area, the Philippine Navy said on Wednesday.

At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad was asked if the military supports the 100-boat civilian mission to Scarborough Shoal on May 15.

“We support all activities of the Filipino people of civic society that would show our resolve for the West Philippine Sea,” Trinidad said.

“Hindi nga lang dapat 100 yan. If China could amass 300 to 400 maritime militia [vessels] and malayo sa coastline nila yan, dapat tayo 1,000,” he added.

(Actually it should not be 100 boats only. If China could amass 300 to 400 maritime militia and they are far from their coastline, we should have 1,000.)

As long as the civilian mission to WPS follows the guidance of the government, Trinidad said the Philippine Navy will support them.

For Trinidad, the efforts of civic groups to hold a mission to the WPS is an indicator that Filipinos now understand "the issue."

The Philippine Navy will help the civilian mission through monitoring its safety, according to Trinidad.

Atin Ito Coalition, the mission’s organizer, said that in the second iteration of the activity, it aims to conduct a “peace and solidarity regatta” and install markers or buoys in Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc. The shoal is also referred to as Panatag Shoal.

“The primary objectives of the mission are to conduct a ‘peace and solidarity regatta’ within our EEZ, during which symbolic markers/buoys emblazoned with the rallying cry ‘WPS, Atin Ito!’ (WPS is ours!) will be placed to reinforce our country's territorial integrity,” Atin Ito co-convenor and Akbayan president Rafaela David earlier said.

Participating in the mission are two main civilian boats escorted by 100 small fishing vessels that will set sail from Zambales.

International observers are invited to join the mission to document the situation in the WPS and witness the challenges faced by Filipino fishers and frontliners.

Atin Ito also plans to deliver essential supplies like fuel to Filipino fishermen in the area.

Bajo de Masinloc is a place of tension between the Philippines and China, as Filipino frontliners were harassed and fishers were shooed away by China in the area.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Coast Guard said Chinese Coast vessels fired water cannons at Philippine civilian vessels en route to Bajo de Masinloc.

The PCG vessel BRP Bagacay sustained damage on a part of its superstructure.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel BRP Bankaw — which was also rammed by Chinese vessels three times — sustained damage on its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, electrical, navigation, and radio systems.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Parts of the waters within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone have been renamed as West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Tensions between China and the Philippines have heightened in recent months as both sides trade accusations over a series of incidents in the concerned waters. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News