Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The Philippines is to deploy maritime militia in the South China Sea amid tensions with China, but politicians in Manila are concerned about the impact on Philippine fishermen.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros of the political opposition said the militia to be sent to the West Philippine Sea should not be armed, The Inquirer reported Wednesday.
"Those who should be armed in the country should only be the Armed Forces of the Philippines officers and Philippine National Police," Hontiveros said. "I will really be worried if we proceed with arming fishermen."
The Philippine politician said she is worried civilian fishermen could be targeted by China if they are allowed to carry arms.
"Not only one fisherman could get killed," she said.
On Monday, Philippine Navy Chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo had said the navy would send maritime militia to the West Philippine Sea to carry out patrols and protect fishermen, The Inquirer and Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
According to DPA, Bacordo said he would send more than 200 troops to disputed areas of the South China Sea. China has claimed nearly all waters as its territory under its "nine-dash line" policy, despite opposition from claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Philippine plans for patrols include militia stationed near the disputed Spratly Islands, and another unit by the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by Manila and Beijing.
Manila's decision to move forward with the protection of fishermen at sea comes after China's Coast Guard began to increase its presence at Scarborough Shoal in May. The Philippines has also condemned the actions of a Chinese boat in 2019, when the vessel collided with then sunk a Filipino boat. A Chinese group later apologized for the incident.
Chinese activities in the South China Sea continue to draw strong criticism from the United States.
"Beijing has pursued aggressive campaigns of coercion and environmental devastation," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ASEAN member states in September.