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PH removes China's barrier in WPS

Metro Manila, September 26 ------ The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) removed the floating barrier from the southeast entrance of Bajo De Masinloc (BDM), also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. The shoal is part of the municipality of Masinloc in Zambales. It is located 124 nautical miles (NM) west of the province and falls within the Philippines' 200 NM exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

On Sept. 20, the PCG discovered that the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) installed the 300-meter-long barrier in the southeast portion of Scarborough Shoal. Authorities said the CCG usually placed these when it monitored a large number of Filipino fishermen in a particular area. The removal of the barrier was done in compliance with instructions from Malacañang and the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, the agency said. “The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law. It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in BDM, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory,” the PCG said. “The 2016 Arbitral Award has affirmed that BDM is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates the international law. It also infringes on the Philippines' sovereignty over BDM,” the coast guard added.

The 2016 ruling, awarded by an international tribunal constituted under the UNCLOS, nullified China’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea, which overlapped with the Philippines’ EEZ. Beijing has continued to defy the ruling, describing it as illegal and invalid. Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress denounced China for its “bullying” and urged the national government to hold the eastern superpower accountable. This floating barrier incident comes just a week after the Philippines accused China of destroying and harvesting corals in the Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal maritime features also located in the hotly contested West Philippine Sea – after Beijing’s militia vessels were seen over the waters in question.

The Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and the PCG this week will discuss possible legal actions it can take against China for inflicting environmental damage, including the possibility of suing Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration again. Furthermore, the OSG said it would review all of the incidents in the West Philippine Sea since the 2016 Arbitral Award to establish another solid case against China. These include the alleged reef destruction and the floating barrier incidents. China has been escalating its aggression towards Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea since 2021 according to a maritime law expert, as shown by its use of a military-grade laser at the PCG in February this year, blasting Filipino ships with a water cannon last month, and its vessels’ dangerous maneuvers that put Filipino lives at risk.

The president of New Masinloc Fishermen's Association said he's thankful that the PCG was able to remove the floating barrier from Bajo De Masinloc, saying it was a huge threat to local fishers in the area. "Parang magnanakaw ang ating mga mangingisda. [They treat our fishermen like thieves]," Leonardo Cuaresma told CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Monday. "'Yung mga huling palaot ng ating mga mangingisda ay totally talaga na hinaharang sila at hindi sila pinapayagan makapasok doon sa loob ng [Scarborough] Shoal," he added. He also said the fishers are being pushed back by the Chinese Coast Guard for about three nautical miles from their perimeter.

Citing a report from Japan's public media organization Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK), Chinese diplomat Wang Wenbin asserted that Huangyan Dao (Scarborough Shoal) has always been China's territory. The envoy added that a Philippine vessel "intruded" into their waters and the China Coast Guard only "did what is necessary," which is to block the drive away the vessel.



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