Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has set aside VND11.5 trillion (US$540 million) to build new coast guard ships in an effort to better protect fishermen amid China's rising aggression in the East Sea.
During a government meeting on Thursday, the PM said the money will be spent on building 32 new vessels and acquiring necessary Coast Guard equipment while another VND4.5 trillion ($211.5 million) will be disbursed to help fishermen build offshore fishing boats starting this month.
He said the funds are intended to raise the Coast Guard's law enforcement capacity and enable coastal fishermen to maintain their daily activities and exercise their rights to Vietnamese waters.
China placed a $1-billion oil rig near the Hoang Sa (Paracels) archipelago two months ago and has been guarding it with a fleet of hundreds of military, coast guard and armored fishing vessels ever since.
Several Vietnamese fishing boats--all of which are all wooden and four to five times smaller than their Chinese counterparts--have reportedly been rammed inside their own waters. One was sunk early last month by a Chinese Coast Guard; another VIetnamese crew was recently arrested while operating in traditional fishing waters.
A total of 51 Coast Guard vessels have sought repairs in Danang following attacks from Chinese boats positioned around the oil rig, according to comments made by Colonel Ha Son Hai, general director of Song Thu (the Ministry of Defense's shipbuilding and repair company) during a site visit from President Truong Tan Sang on Tuesday.
We have calmly and determinedly asked Chinese boats to leave Vietnamese waters, but the Chinese boats have aggressively pursued our boats at high speed in response." -- Lieutenant Colonel Tran Quang Tuan, deputy commander of coast guards in mid-central Vietnam.
Lieutenant Colonel Tran Quang Tuan, deputy commander of Vietnam's mid-central Coast Guard territory (which includes the Hoang Sa islands) said his forces have “calmly and determinedly asked Chinese boats to leave Vietnamese waters, but the Chinese boats have aggressively pursued our boats at high speed in response.”
Dung said the government will consider providing further support to marine forces and fishermen if the budget allows.