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China accuses BFAR ship of trespassing in Scarborough Shoal

China accuses BFAR ship of trespassing in Scarborough Shoal

China on Monday said it installed floating barriers in Scarborough Shoal to prevent a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel from trespassing into the Scarborough Shoal.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Philippine vessel entered the disputed shoal, referred as Huangyan Island by the Chinese and Bajo de Masinloc by Filipinos, without permission.

"On September 22, without China’s permission, a ship of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, trespassed into the waters near Huangyan Island, and attempted to intrude into the lagoon of Huangyan Island," Wang said in Beijing.

"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.”

The shoal, a U-shaped rocky outcrop rich in marine resources was seized by China from Manila in 2012 following a two-month standoff, triggering an arbitration complaint by Manila 10 years ago.

An arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea, ruled that no country can claim sovereign rights over the shoal, saying it is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

It also ruled that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed shoal off northwestern Philippines.

China has refused to recognize the ruling.

Wang insisted that the shoal, "is China’s inherent territory" - a claim rejected by Manila.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island and its adjacent waters and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters," Wang said.

'Appropriate measures'

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it is prepared to take all "appropriate measures" to enforce its rights over the Scarborough Shoal.

It maintained that Scarborough "is an integral part of the Philippines over which we have sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction according to UNCLOS" or United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

UNCLOS, both signed by the Philippines and China, allows coastal nations the right to explore, manage and exploit resources within 200 nautical miles from their shores.

The DFA stressed that Scarborough is a "traditional fishing ground of Filipino fisherfolk." 

Meanwhile, the Philippine Justice Department said the government may remove the floating barrier installed in the southeast portion of the Scarborough Shoal if it is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

“Well, if it is within our economic zone, exclusive economic zone, then we will just declare it to be such and that it’s a violation of our right to exclusive economic zone, and we can remove the same,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said at a briefing.

“That’s interfering with something that has been granted to us in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. If it is within our exclusive economic zone, then that is an interference in our activities,” he said.

Remulla said he is seeking a meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Solicitor General this week to discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News