China on Tuesday urged the Philippines to stop provocations in the South China Sea after the Philippine Coast Guard said it has removed a floating barrier placed by the Chinese to prevent Filipino fishermen from entering Scarborough Shoal.
"We urge the Philippines not to make provocations or seek trouble," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Weibin said at a press briefing in Beijing.
Wang issued his remark while responding to a question regarding the removal of the floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal.
Manila had condemned the installation of the 300-meter-long barrier at the mouth of the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground called Huangyan Island by the Chinese and Bajo de Masinloc by Filipinos.
The shoal, a U-shaped rocky outcrop teeming with marine resources was seized by China from Manila in 2012 following a two-month standoff, triggering an arbitration complaint by Manila 10 years ago.
A presidential directive was given to the Philippine Coast Guard to remove China's barriers, officials had said.
On Monday, Philippine Coast Guard 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 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 said.
"The so-called statement was what the Philippines told itself. China’s resolve to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime rights and interests over Huangyan Island is unwavering," Wang said.
Wang earlier said it installed the floating barrier to prevent a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel from trespassing into the Scarborough Shoal.
"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.
"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."
'Violation of international law'
Philippine officials had called China's installation of the barrier a violation of international law and the country's sovereignty.
On Tuesday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary 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.
The Philippine Coast Guard's move to cut off the barrier highlights the Marcos administration's efforts to contest China’s continuing aggressive actions in the resource-rich waters.
The Philippine Coast Guard said the 300-meter floating barrier was placed along Scarborough on Friday.
Three Chinese Coast Guard 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, it added.
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 Scarborough Shoal off northwestern Philippines.
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. — with Reuters/RSJ, GMA Integrated News