In a move to counter Chinese claims in the South China Sea (SCS), the Philippines has started to build its own militia sea forces, to be known as the Cafgu Active Auxiliary Service (CAAS).
The measure will protect the Philippines ' interests in SCS adjacent waters including its vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) reported Asia Times.
The new force will be recruited from among the Philippine Army, trained by the Philippine Navy, specifically, the navy's Northern Luzon and Naval Forces West units, informed the Vice-Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, the Philippines' naval chief.
The 'gray zone' arms race in the SCS region started with China's use of its paramilitary forces to block supplies and construction material shipments from arriving at Thitu Island, where the Philippines maintains a token military presence and rudimentary airstrip it is seeking to upgrade.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a recent address to the Senate that "the other side" - meng China - "is using what we call 'civilian militias' but actually are part of their Navy... they're also fishing, they're also acting as fishermen and fishing with big boats."
The Asia Times reported that the Philippines is bidding to firm up its defenses after years of Chinese intimidation tactics in the disputed sea, including China's 2012 occupation of the Scarborough Shoal in Mla's EEZ.
The shoal is crucial for China to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the sea.
The Philippines would not be the first to push back at China's use of maritime paramilitary forces in the sea. Vietnam who is hotly contesting its territorial claims on Paracel and Spratly island chains created their own maritime force in 2009 to push out the Chinese sea militias in the region reported Asia Times.
Last year, a suspected Chinese militia vessel had sunk and almost killed 22 Filipino fishermen roaming the fisheries and energy-rich contested Reed Bank area.
Earlier, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte underscored the strategic need for more China-countering forces at a speech last month at the United Nations' General Assembly, where he "firmly reject[ed] attempts to undermine" the Philippines' maritime claims - a thinly veiled complaint against China's rising use of sea militias reported Asia Times.
( With inputs from ANI )
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