By Jojo Malig
MANILA, Philippines – Chinese troops should go after Philippine ships and fishermen who go near the disputed Scarborough shoal, a Chinese navy official said.
Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) Information Expert Committee, said this should be done to “Filipino vessels that hang around in the lagoon and don’t leave,” according to state-owned news agency China News Service (CNS).
Yin said Chinese naval troops should board and search Philippine government ships and private fishing vessels.
He said this is already being done by the Philippines on Chinese fishing ships.
Yin said the “Philippines has not yet returned 24 Chinese fishing boats it is holding,” referring to Chinese boats intercepted in Philippine territory in October last year.
Yin, who is described by the CNS as a military expert, said Chinese troops “must try to maintain restraint, not force, not hurt people,” when going after Philippine ships found in waters near or at Scarborough shoal.
He said Chinese government ships should conduct more regular patrols in the waters off Scarborough to esnure the safety of Chinese fishing boats.
Yin told Communist Party publication the People’s Daily on Thursday that China’s navy will not hesitate to use deadly force against its enemies.
“Our navy has the absolute ability and the absolute confidence to use arms to defend our country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and maritime rights. We’re just waiting for the order,” he said.
President Benigno Aquino said earlier in the week that the Philippines may redeploy ships to the shoal to counter the presence of foreign vessels.
Philippine ships were forced to pull out from the area last weekend due to bad weather.
“If there is a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence of other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there is no need to deploy and they can go back to their normal routine of safeguarding — the Coast Guard for instance — our coastlines from… [the] wet season,” Aquino told reporters.
He said the decision to redeploy will be based on China’s moves to occupy the area.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday that several Chinese ships have been seen again around Scarborough shoal.
Gazmin, in a text message to ANC, said the Chinese vessels were spotted by a Philippine Air Force plane that was deployed to conduct a reconnaissance mission over the disputed area.
He did not say how many Chinese ships are now at Scarborough.
Yin blasts Aquino, ‘US-Philippine plan’
Yin, during a discussion with Chinese netizens on the state-owned People’s Daily website, also claimed that Aquino’s plan to send ships anew to Scarborough shoal is part of a scheme between Manila and Washington to usher in US military troops’ return to Asia.
He said the US and the Philippines — which are bound by a mutual defense treaty — want to use Scarborough shoal as a flashpoint to break China’s friendship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Yin also accused Aquino of trying to “consolidate his regime” by pleasing military officials.
He said Aquino inherited his mother’s bad relationship with the Philippine military, which the country’s current president now wants to solve.
The Chinese military official also said Aquino’s tough stand on Scarborough “attacks domestic anti-American and pro-Arroyo forces in the Philippines.”
It is not known how much influence Yin wields in the PLA.
His statements mirror an earlier call by another hardliner, PLA Major General Luo Yuan, who wants China to launch “decisive action” at Scarborough Shoal to reinforce Beijing’s claim on the territory, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
While their comments do not represent official policy and the PLA is only serving on the beck and call of China’s Communist Party, officers like Yin and Luo have been given some leeway to strike a tougher tone in their comments, according to foreign analysts.
In 2010, Chinese President Hu Jintao admonished the military for letting officers speak on sensitive issues.
This, however, has not prevented Yin and Luo from airing their hardline views on state-owned media.