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Philippines removes China barrier in Scarborough Shoal

The Philippine Coast Guard has removed the dangerous floating barrier which it said the Chinese Coast Guard placed in the southeast portion of the Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, the PCG said on Monday night.

On X, PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said, "the decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal."

The special operation conducted Monday evening to remove the “hazardous floating barrier” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) was upon the instructions of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, who also heads the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, Tarriela added.

The Coast Guard official said the barrier "posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law."

"It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in BDM (Bajo de Masinloc), which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory," he said.

"The 2016 Arbitral Award has affirmed that BDM is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates the international law.  It also infringes on the Philippines' sovereignty over BDM," he added.

Located 229.6 kilometers (124 nautical miles) away from Zambales, Scarborough Shoal  is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and is considered one of the traditional fishing grounds for Filipinos.

The PCG said the floating barrier, which has an estimated length of 300 meters, was discovered by its personnel and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday, September 22.

“Three (3) CCG’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the BFAR vessel in the vicinity of the shoal. It was reported by the Filipino fishermen that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area,” PCG earlier said in a statement.

More than 50 Filipino fishing boats engaged in fishing activities were found by BFAR at the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc during the routine maritime patrol.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said the Philippine 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,” Remulla said in 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 added.

The Justice Secretary said he was 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.

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

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

Año earlier said the Chinese government violated the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen based on the 2016 Arbitral ruling in installing the floating barrier.

“We condemn the installation of floating barriers by [the Chinese Coast Guard] in [Bajo de Masinloc]. The placement by the People's Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral ruling,” he said.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration, in a July 2016 ruling, has upheld the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the WPS, outlawed Chinese aggression in the common fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal, and ultimately rejected China’s expansive nine-dash-line claim of the entire South China Sea. China, however, has refused to recognize the court ruling—NB, GMA Integrated News