Manila, Sep 27 (EFE).- The Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday urged local fishermen to keep operating at the disputed Scarborough shoal, two days after it removed a Chinese floating barrier that had prevented Filipino vessels from entering the contested area in the South China Sea.
“It is the intention of the government to encourage more Filipino fishermen to fish at the Bajo de Masinloc Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) and in other areas in the West Philippine Sea,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela told the local radio channel DZRH.
The spokesperson added that the coastguard would “increase” patrols near the contested Shoal and other areas where Filipino fishermen operate in the disputed waters.
On Monday, the coastguard removed a 300-meter floating barrier installed by China to block Philippine fishing vessels from entering Scarborough Shoal, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone as per Manila’s claims.
On Tuesday, China warned that it was “resolved in safeguarding its sovereignty” over the Scarborough Shoal.
Beijing urged the Philippines “not to make provocations or seek troubles” in the hotly contested South China Sea.
China asserts territorial rights over the entire South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, a claim that overlaps with the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, recognized under international law.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favor of Manila in its dispute with China over territorial claims. However, Beijing has refused to comply with the ruling.
Tensions had escalated on Tuesday after the Philippine coast guard claimed that the floating barrier, placed in the southeast entrance of Scarborough Shoal, posed a danger to navigation, thereby violating international laws.
The coast guard personnel arrived on Monday in boats, posing as fishermen, and removed the anchor and net that had obstructed access to a lagoon within the atoll.
China seized control of the shoal in 2012, blocking access for Filipino fishing vessels.
However, it relaxed the ban when former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte adopted a policy of rapprochement with China in 2016.
The current president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, has reversed the diplomatic approach by boosting defense ties with the United States and intensifying the rhetoric against Beijing over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. EFE