Beijing, Sep 28 (EFE).- A spokesperson for the Chinese Coast Guard said it removed a floating barrier near Scarborough Atoll, in disputed South China Sea waters, despite the Philippines announcing earlier this week that its own coast guard had done so.
According to a statement from spokesperson Gan Yu, China put up the barrier after detecting the entry into the area of a vessel from the Philippine Fisheries and Aquatic Resources bureau and removed it on Saturday, when “normal control” resumed.
The above implies China – always according to its version – removed the barrier two days before the Philippines denounced its presence and claimed to have eliminated it.
“The supposed dismantling of the barrier is a complete fabrication of the facts and a drama self-induced and directed by the Philippines,” read the statement, reported Thursday by local media.
Gan added that China would continue to develop activities in those waters and “resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and maritime rights.”
According to the version released by Manila, Beijing had placed the barrier to prevent Filipino fishing vessels from fishing in the area, which posed a danger to navigation and violated international laws.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela said his country’s coast guard went in boats Monday pretending they were fishermen, cutting the anchor and net that prevented access to a lagoon on the atoll. He said it was left adrift and was recovered by Chinese ships.
A day after this announcement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson warned the Philippines not to “provoke or seek trouble” and added that “China would firmly defend its sovereignty and maritime interests over Huangyan Dao,” as the atoll is known in China.
China occupied Scarborough Atoll in 2012 and blocked entry to Philippine fishing vessels, but relaxed the ban when former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte began rapprochement with China in 2016.
However, new Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has strengthened defense ties with the United States and raised criticism of Beijing over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
Chinese authorities claim almost the entire South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, which overlaps with the 200-mile exclusive economic areas, under international law, of countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Beijing alleges historical reasons, but in 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration agreed with Manila in its complaint against the claims of the Chinese authorities, a decision China refused to abide by.
Tensions between China and the Philippines have increased in recent months, and last week Manila said it was considering filing a new complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, this time over the loss of coral in disputed waters, for which they accuse Chinese ships. EFE