Philippines vows to remove ‘floating barriers’ placed by China in South China Sea

Philippines vows to remove ‘floating barriers’ placed by China in South China Sea

Philippines officials on Monday vowed to take "all appropriate actions” to remove the floating barriers placed by China in a disputed area of the South China Sea, said the country’s national security advisor.

The barriers are blocking Filipino fishing boats from getting access in the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed lagoon in South China Sea.

Chinese coast guard vessels laid 300m-long barrier, on Friday as a Philippine government fisheries vessel approached. More than 50 Philippine fishing boats were outside the shoal at the time, the Philippine coast guard said.

"We condemn the installation of floating barriers by the Chinese coast guard," Philippine national security adviser Eduardo Ano said. "The placement by the People’s Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen."

The country’s foreign ministry on Monday said that the barriers were a violation of international law and that the Philippines would "take all appropriate measures to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk".

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the shoal and its adjacent waters are "China’s inherent territory", where Beijing "has indisputable sovereignty".

A Philippine government fisheries vessel "trespassed into the waters" without China’s permission on 22 September, Mr Wang said, and "attempted to intrude into the lagoon" of the shoal. "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," he added.

It’s the latest flare-up in long-simmering territorial disputes in the busy and resource-rich waterway, most of which is claimed by China.

The South Asian country claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, overlapping with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines, which has long been regarded as a potential flashpoint and a delicate faultline in the US-China rivalry.

Washington lays no claim to the sea passageway, a major global trade route, but US Navy ships and fighter jets have carried out patrols for decades to challenge China’s expansive claims and promote freedom of navigation and overflight. China has told the US to stop meddling in what it says is a purely Asian dispute.

Beijing seized the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and forced fishermen from the Philippines to travel further for smaller catches.

The latest barrier by China denies Filipinos access to the rich fishing lagoon surrounded by underwater coral outcrops, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said.

"We have to be very careful (not to commit) any diplomatic misstep," Mr Tarriela on Monday before the government’s comments, when asked whether the coast guard was planning to remove the barrier.

Mr Tarriela said that according to Filipino fishermen, the Chinese coast guard usually installs such barriers when they monitor a large number of fishermen in the area, then remove it later.

"It’s an illegal and illegitimate action coming from the People’s Republic of China," Mr Tarriela was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "Definitely it affects our food security."

Additional reporting from the wires