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DFA: PH to take appropriate measures to protect rights over Scarborough Shoal

The Philippines is prepared to take all "appropriate measures" to enforce its rights over the Scarborough Shoal after China installed a floating barrier to block Filipino fishermen's access to the area, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

In a statement, the DFA said the shoal, known locally as Bajo de Masinloc, "is an integral part of the Philippines over which we have sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction according to UNCLOS."

UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which extends the territorial jurisdiction of maritime states up to 200 nautical miles from its coasts. It is signed by at least 162 nations including Philippines and China.

The DFA added that the 2016 arbitral award won by the Philippines "affirms it as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fisherfolk."

"We will take all appropriate measures to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk," the DFA said.

China has been blocking Filipinos from fishing at Scarborough Shoal — a U-shaped rocky outcrop rich in marine resources seized by Beijing from Manila in 2012 following a two-month standoff that triggered an international arbitration complaint by the Philippines a decade ago.

Beijing claims Chinese sovereignty over the shoal — an assertion rejected by Manila, saying it does not have basis under international law nor is recognized by the international community.

"China’s reported installation of barriers and its negative impact on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk or any other activity that infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereignty and jurisdiction in Bajo de Masinloc are violations of international law, particularly UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award," the DFA said.

GMA News Online reached out to the Chinese embassy for comment but has yet to receive a response.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the 300-meter floating barrier was placed along Scarborough on Friday.

Three China Coast Guard (PCG) rigid hull inflatable boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the personnel from the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the vicinity of the shoal, the PCG said.

Filipino lawmakers have asked the PCG to cut and remove the barrier to assert Philippine rights over the shoal.

Although the shoal is claimed by the Philippines, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in 2016 that no country can claim sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal, saying it is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

China refused to recognize the ruling and insisted that the shoal is within its territory.

The shoal is 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest coastal province of Hainan and lies 124 nautical miles off the nearest Philippine landmass of Palawan. —KBK, GMA Integrated News