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Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Philippines removes South China Sea ‘floating barrier’ installed by China

Chinese coastguard personnel monitor a passage to Scarborough Shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

The Philippine coastguard has removed a “floating barrier” installed by China in a disputed area in the South China Sea, calling it a “decisive action” in “upholding international law”.

Authorities carried out “a special operation” that was “in compliance” with the instructions given by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Philippine coastguard spokesperson Jay Tarriela posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday evening.

“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, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory.”

Tarriela referred to the Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Scarborough Shoal.

A video and a still image posted by Tarriela showed a diver carrying a knife and cutting the cable linking the buoys. Another photo showed personnel removing an anchor of the “floating barrier”.

Earlier on Monday, Marcos’s national security adviser, Eduardo Ano, had indicated that Manila will take “all appropriate actions to cause the removal” of the buoys estimated to be 300 metres (1,000ft) long.

This photo taken on September 22, 2023, shows a Chinese coastguard ship blocking a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship, foreground, as it nears the Chinese-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin had previously defended the installation of the “floating barrier”, saying its coastguard took necessary measures in accordance with the law to drive away a Philippine vessel.

He did not specify which law he was citing to justify the installation of the barrier.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, an area that overlaps with the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said the barrier was a violation of international law and the Philippines would “take all appropriate measures to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk”.

Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, on a routine patrol on Friday near the shoal.

According to Filipino fishermen, the Chinese coastguard usually installs such barriers when it monitors a large number of fishermen in the area and then removes it later, Tarriela said.

Scarborough Shoal is within the 200-nautical-mile (370km) EEZ of the Philippines as defined by international maritime law and affirmed by a ruling of The Hague’s International Court of Arbitration.

Beijing claims the area as part of its territory and refers to Scarborough Shoal as Huangyan Island.

In 2012, Beijing seized control of Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and forced Filipino fishermen to travel farther for smaller catches.

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