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DFA chief: Removal of China barrier consistent with PH position on WPS


Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Tuesday said the removal of China's floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal is consistent with the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Technically, since we have a right to practice our sovereignty and our sovereign rights, so it would have been consistent with our position, but we're still waiting for the full report [on its removal],” Manalo said in an interview with Senate reporters.

On the idea to file a case against China before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), Manalo said the DFA would need to study the procedures.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) over the weekend said the China Coast Guard (CCG) installed a floating barrier in the southeast portion of Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the area to conduct fishing activities.

The PCG said the floating barrier, which has an estimated length of 300 meters, was discovered by personnel of PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday while onboard Datu Bankaw to conduct maritime patrol mission in the area.

On Monday, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela announced that they have removed "hazardous floating barrier" in the WPS upon the instructions of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, who also heads the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

Tarriela said "[T]he decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal.”

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.

In a television interview earlier in the day, Tarriela said the government is aiming to enter the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal following the removal of the floating barrier.

Tarriela said the PCG will work with BFAR and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for this.

After the 2012 standoff between the Philippine and China in Scarborough Shoal, Tarriela said Chinese vessels have guarded the lagoon and barred Filipino ships and fishing boats from entering the area.

"The PCG together with the BFAR, and of course with the support of our AFP, through the intelligence cooperation that we have already established, we will be able to sustain this patrol with the end goal of once again allowing fishermen to be able to go inside the lagoon," the PCG official said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said the Philippines is prepared to take all "appropriate measures" to enforce its rights over Scarborough Shoal.

In a statement, the DFA said the shoal was "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. —KBK, GMA Integrated News

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