Tensions in the South China Sea may further rise as the Philippine coast guard carried out a “special operation” following the order of the country’s president Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The coast guard said to have removed the 300-metre-long floating barrier Beijing had placed to stop Filipino fishing boats from entering a lagoon in a disputed area, Scarborough Shoal.
The announcement was made on the night of September 25, and didn’t include whether the entire barrier had been removed, when the operation had taken place and if Chinese boat patrols had reacted in any way.
The coast guard said: “The decisive action of the Philippine coast guard to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal.
“[The coast guard] remains committed to upholding international law, safeguarding the welfare of Filipino fisherfolk and protecting the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters.”
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The rope and net barrier held up by buoys had been installed by the Chinese coast guard last week.
Filipino officials were quick to slam this move, with the country’s national security adviser Eduardo Ano saying: “The placement by the People’s Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen.”
The Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela also claimed the “illegal and illegitimate action” by Beijing “affects our food security”.
The “special operation” also signals Manila is prepared to fight back China’s increased aggressiveness in the South China Sea and with its neighbours.
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Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin claimed the barrier was put in place after a Philippine government fisheries vessel and several fishing boats had “trespassed into the waters” without China’s permission on September 22.
He added: “China’s coast guard took the necessary measures to stop and warn off the ship in accordance with the law, which was professional and with restraint.”
Beijing maintains the Scarborough Shoal and its surrounding waters are part of the “inherent territory” of China.
But Mr Tarriela said his country’s government ship had hit back via radio to the Chinese coast guard claiming the boats were breaching international and China’s law by explaining they were on a routine patrol in Philippine water.
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The Scarborough Shoal is a rocky atoll part of the many territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is rich in resources and a key route for global trade.
Among those involved in territorial disputes in the areas are China, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.
While the US doesn’t claim sovereignty on the sea passageway, it has often sent navy ships and fighter jets to the area to fend off Beijing’s attempts to expand its territory and safeguard its international allies.
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