Philippines condemns ‘floating barrier’ in South China Sea

Images posted on social media show buoys placed by China that block Philippine fishing boats from entering an area within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Philippine Coast Guard Photo
Images show multiple buoys guarded by Chinese vessels in the area known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc [Courtesy: Philippine Coast Guard]

The Philippines has accused China’s coastguard of installing a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, which it said prevents Filipinos from fishing within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The coastguard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources “strongly condemn” China’s installation of the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal, “which prevents Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities”, spokesperson Jay Tarriela posted on Sunday on X, formerly Twitter.

Photos showed multiple buoys lined up and guarded by Chinese boats in the area, known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc. The barrier is about 300 metres (985 feet) long and was discovered during a “routine maritime patrol” on Friday, said Tarriela.

When Philippine boats started fishing, four Chinese coastguard vessels initiated a series of 15 radio challenges “in an attempt to drive away” the vessels, he said.

The Philippine coastguard “will continue to work closely with all concerned government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains”, Tarriela added.

Scarborough Shoal is within the 200-nautical-mile (370km) EEZ of the Philippines as defined by international maritime law and affirmed by a ruling of The Hague’s International Court of Arbitration.

Beijing claims the area as part of its territory and refers to Scarborough Shoal as Huangyan Island. China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

In recent weeks, Manila and Beijing have traded accusations of “illegal” incursions, firing water cannon, and performing dangerous boat manoeuvres in the disputed area.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies