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The Philippines on Sunday condemned the Chinese coast guard for installing what it called a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying that it prevented Filipino boats from entering and fishing in the area.
In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said the floating barrier was discovered by Philippine vessels during a routine maritime patrol on Friday and measured around 300 meters (984 feet).
“The Philippine coast guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources strongly condemn the China coast guard’s installation of a floating barrier in the Southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc, which prevents Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities,” the statement read.
Tarriela shared photos of the alleged floating barrier and claimed three Chinese coast guard boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat had installed the floating barrier following the arrival of a Philippine government vessel in the area.
The Philippines’ National Security Council (NSC) said Monday it will take “all appropriate actions to cause the removal of the barriers and to protect the rights of our fishermen in the area.”
The barriers violate the Philippines’ traditional fishing rights affirmed by a 2016 international tribunal ruling against China’s South China Sea claims, national security adviser Eduardo Año said in a statement.
Beijing on Monday defended its actions saying it has “indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island and its adjacent waters,” using the Chinese name for the disputed shoal, and accusing the Filipino vessel of “intruding” without permission.
“The Chinese Coast Guard took the necessary measures in accordance with the law to stop and drive away the other vessel and the operation in question was conducted with professional restraint,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press briefing.
According to Filipino fishermen, Chinese vessels “usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area,” the statement said.
Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Scarborough Shoal, is a small but strategic reef and fertile fishing ground 130 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Philippine island of Luzon.
The shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, is one of a number of disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which is home to various territorial disputes.
In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a landmark maritime dispute, which concluded that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.
China has ignored the ruling.
The situation comes days after the Philippine coast guard shared footage of vast patches of broken and bleached coral, prompting officials to accuse China of massive destruction in the area. China’s foreign ministry dismissed the allegations as “false and groundless.”