China Accused of Installing “Floating Barrier” in Disputed South China Sea Area, Preventing Filipino Fishermen’s Access
MANILA, Sept 24 (Reuters) – The Philippines has accused China’s coast guard of installing a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, effectively blocking Filipino fishermen from accessing and fishing in the area.
According to Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Philippine coast guard, China’s installation of the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal has been strongly condemned by Manila’s coast guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Tarriela made the statement on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.
The barrier, which is preventing fishermen from reaching the shoal, is depriving them of their fishing activities and livelihood, Tarriela emphasized. He mentioned that the Philippine Coast Guard will continue to collaborate with relevant government agencies to address these challenges and protect the country’s maritime rights.
As of now, the Chinese embassy in Manila has not responded to requests for comment regarding the accusation of installing the floating barrier.
Photographs released by the Philippine Coast Guard reveal Chinese Coast Guard boats positioned near the floating barrier on September 20, 2023. These visuals depict the situation at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
China’s claim to approximately 90% of the South China Sea overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In 2012, Beijing seized the Scarborough Shoal, forcing Filipino fishermen to travel longer distances for smaller catches.
During the period of improved bilateral relations under former President Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the uninhabited shoal. However, tensions have risen once again since Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., assumed office last year.
On a routine patrol, personnel from the Philippine coast guard and fisheries bureau discovered the 300-meter-long floating barrier near the shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, on Friday, as per Tarriela.
He further stated that three Chinese coast guard inflatable boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat installed the barrier as the Philippine vessel arrived. Filipino fishermen have reported that China typically installs such barriers when monitoring a large number of fishermen in the area, Tarriela revealed.
In response to the Philippine ship and fishermen’s presence, the Chinese boats issued 15 radio challenges, accusing them of violating international and Chinese laws. However, upon realizing the presence of media personnel onboard the Philippine vessel, the Chinese boats moved away.
Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by William Mallard
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