Home world Philippine Coast Guard says 'successfully removes' barrier at disputed reef

Philippine Coast Guard says 'successfully removes' barrier at disputed reef

Philippine Coast Guard says 'successfully removes' barrier at disputed reef
Published September 26, 2023 Updated September 26, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard said on Monday (Sept 25) it had removed a floating barrier at a disputed reef that was allegedly deployed to stop Filipinos from accessing the traditional fishing ground.

The statement was issued hours after Philippine National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano vowed to take “all appropriate actions” for the removal of barriers installed by the Chinese coast guard at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. 

A 300 m-long floating barrier was found across the entrance of the shoal last week during a routine government resupply mission to Filipino fishermen plying the waters near the Chinese-controlled reef.

It was not clear from the Philippine statement if the entire barrier had been removed from the water.

A video released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed a man wearing a mask, snorkel and fins using a knife to sever a rope attached to white buoys.

Another video showed an anchor being hauled from the water into a wooden outrigger boat.  

The coast guard announced it had “successfully” removed the barrier “in compliance with presidential instruction”.  

“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law,” it added.

China, which seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012, deploys coast guard and other vessels to patrol the fishing ground.

The floating barrier prevents fishing boats from entering the shoal’s shallow waters where fish are more abundant. 

Philippine officials previously accused the Chinese coast guard of installing the barrier shortly before the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship arrived at the shoal last Wednesday.

Several media outlets, including AFP, were on board the BRP Datu Bankaw and saw the barrier. 

“We will take all appropriate actions to cause the removal of the barriers and to protect the rights of our fishermen in the area,” National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said in a statement on Monday.

Mr Ano said the Philippines condemns the installation of barriers, arguing such action “violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights… have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral ruling”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin hit back on Monday, saying Scarborough Shoal was “an inherent part of China” and China had “indisputable sovereignty over it and its surrounding waters”.

Scarborough Shoal is 240km west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 370km of their shore.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, while several other countries, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims to parts of it. 

Beijing has ignored the 2016 international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippine foreign ministry said Monday it would “take all appropriate measures to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk”, without elaborating.  

Filipino fishermen say that China’s actions at Scarborough Shoal are robbing them of a key source of income and a place to shelter safely during a storm. AFP