Palace blasts proposal to arm China fishermen

Posted at 07/22/12 7:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Malacanang on Sunday warned against the proposal of a Chinese fishery official urging Beijing to provide arms and military training for its fishermen.

The Philippine Star on Saturday reported that Washington Times columnist Miles Yu identified the Chinese official as He Jianbin, chief of the state-run Baosha Fishing Corp., who reportedly made the appeal in a June 28 commentary in the Communist Party newspaper Global Times.

“Yu quoted the official based in Hainan province as saying, ‘If we put 5,000 Chinese fishing ships in the South China Sea, there will be 100,000 fishermen,’” the Philippine Star said in its report from its Washington Bureau.

“And if we make all of them militiamen, give them weapons, we will have a military force stronger than all the combined forces of all the countries in the South China Sea,” the Chinese official reportedly said.

Asked about the proposal to arm Chinese fishermen, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said it certainly does not sit well with the Philippine government amid the tensions surrounding Scarborough Shoal.

“I don't know if that is a responsible statement from the responsible officials of the Chinese government. That is something I think the Chinese government will have to deal with,” Lacierda said in an interview with Radyo ng Bayan.

“It will not look good internationally because these are supposed to be just doing their commercial protection and arming them would not be in the best interest of China and of any country which has a dispute in the West Philippine Sea. It will not achieve a peaceful diplomatic solution by recommending such an action of arming their fishermen,” he said.

“I hope our Chinese counterparts would realize that we have made efforts to deescalate tension and certainly arming the fishermen will not be in the best interest of both countries to achieve a peaceful solution to the Scarborough incident,” he added.

According to the Philippine Star, Bill Gertz, another Washington Times columnist, said China was set to formally deploy its first aircraft carrier on August 1 to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the communist-ruled People’s Liberation Army.

Gertz, the Philippine Star said, quoted US officials as saying the carrier, a refurbished Soviet carrier previously known as the Varyag, was currently undergoing sea trials in the Bohai Sea, over the northern coast of China.