China brushed off the move by the Philippines to remove the floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal installed by the China Coast Guard.
"What the Philippines did looks like nothing more than self-amusement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“I would like to reiterate that Huangyan Dao (Scarborough Shoal) has always been China’s territory... China will continue to safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests over Huangyan Dao (Scarborough Shoal),” he added.
Wang made the statement when asked if China removed the remnants of its floating barrier from the shoal as reported by the PCG and if China’s position on its claim over Scarborough Shoal has changed.
The removal was done 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, according to the PCG.
"The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal," PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said on Tuesday.
Wang said China installed the floating barrier to prevent a BFAR vessel from supposedly trespassing into 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," he 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 shoal off northwestern Philippines.
China has refused to recognize the ruling.
PCG also urged Filipino fishermen to keep operating at Scarborough Shoal and other sites in the South China Sea, pledging to step up patrols there despite an imposing Chinese presence.
"We're going to increase patrols in Bajo de Masinloc and other areas where Filipino fishermen are," said Tarriela.
Scarborough Shoal is also called Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines.
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. also denied that the Philippines is stirring up trouble in Scarborough Shoal.
"Di naman tayo nagi-stir ng trouble. 'Di naman tayo ang kumukubkob. 'Yan 'yung 'di nila maintindihan," Teodoro told Senate reporters on Wednesday.
(We are not the ones stirring up trouble since we were not the ones who occupied the area. That's what they don't understand.)
Wang has warned the Philippines "not to make provocations or seek trouble" after it removed a floating barrier. —VAL, GMA Integrated News