Tensions escalate as China warns Philippines over removal of barrier in South China Sea

Beijing, Sep 26 (EFE).- China warned the Philippines on Tuesday, cautioning them against “provocations” after the Philippine Coast Guard said they removed a Chinese floating barrier that had prevented Filipino vessels from fishing in a contested area of the South China Sea.

“China is resolved in safeguarding its sovereignty and maritime interests over Huangyan Island,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, referring to the disputed shoal.

“We advise the Philippines not to make provocations or seek troubles,” the spokesperson told reporters.

China asserts its 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 recognized under international law by countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of Manila in its dispute with China over territorial claims. Despite the ruling, Beijing has refused to comply.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have been mounting in recent months. Last week, the Philippine government revealed it was contemplating filing a new complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration. This time, the complaint pertains to coral harvesting and destruction in disputed waters, allegations directed at Chinese vessels.

Tensions escalated further on Tuesday after Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said the floating barrier, placed in the southeast entrance of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc or BDM), posed a danger to navigation, which violates international laws.

Tarriela said the coast guard personnel came on Monday in boats, posing as fishermen, and removed the anchor and net that obstructed access to a lagoon within the atoll.

“It also hindered the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in BDM, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory,” Tarriela said in a statement on Tuesday.

The barrier was then left adrift, no longer blocking access to the atoll. Chinese ships later retrieved the net, according to the Philippine spokesperson.

On Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard accused Chinese vessels of blocking their fishermen from entering and fishing in the area with the floating barrier in disputed waters at the Scarborough Shoal.

Manila insists that the shoal falls within its exclusive economic zone.

On Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry restated its position, asserting that Huangyan Island, the Chinese name for Scarborough, has always been China’s territory.

The ministry emphasized China’s indisputable sovereignty over the island and its surrounding waters, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters.

China took control of the shoal in 2012, blocking access to Filipino fishing vessels. However, it relaxed the ban when former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte adopted a policy of rapprochement with China in 2016.

However, since assuming office in 2022, President Marcos Jr. has strengthened defense ties with the United States and heightened rhetoric against Beijing over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. EFE


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