By Junex Doronio

REFUTING THE CLAIM of Defense and Coast Guard officials that the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) is not civilian in nature but operates under the Chinese military, Senator Robinhood Padilla has maintained that under international law, coast guards are supposed to be civilian in nature.

Throwing in his “two-cents worth” that seemed to favor the Chinese Coast Guard, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said it is a “universally accepted concept” that the Coast Guard is not part of the military.

However, Defense Undersecretary Ignacio Madriaga explained that the CCG is under the Central Military Commission, the highest national defense organization in the People’s Republic of China.

“Sa depinisyon ng PLA Navy, ‘yung Coast Guard po is under po ng [People’s Liberation Army] pati po ‘yung Chinese militia vessels. So technically speaking, hindi po civilian ‘yung nature ng Chinese Coast Guard na nandun,” Madriaga pointed out during the Senate hearing on Tuesday, September 12.

To which the erstwhile popular action star exclaimed: “Huwag natin ibahin ang international law. Ang Coast Guard ay civilian in nature. Pulis nga lang ‘yan. Pulis ng karagatan,” Padilla said.

But the defense official firmly stood that only in the Philippines that the Coast Guard is civilian in nature.

“Ang sinasabi po ba natin ang Chinese Coast Guard ay hindi civilian in nature?” Padilla asked. “Ang ibig niyong sabihin ang Coast Guard, iba ang depinisyon ng China?”

“Opo,” Madriaga said.

“Wow, ha. Talaga lang, ha,” Padilla quipped, seemingly unconvinced.

For his part, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) chief Artemio Abu told the senator that “there is no exact and precise definition that the Coast Guard… is a civilian [force]. It depends on how the country, the administration attaches through legislation the coast guard of its particular country.”

Padilla also wondered aloud why a US Navy plane was present in the West Philippine Sea when it was the Philippine Coast Guard going up against its Chinese counterpart during a recent resupply mission.

A US Navy Poseidon plane – typically used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance missions – was flying over the West Philippine Sea in the two most recent resupply missions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s commissioned civilian boats escorted by the PCG. (AI/MNM)