The national security advisor of the Philippines has made a resolute declaration, stating the country's determination to take "all necessary actions" to ensure the removal of barriers in a disputed area within the South China Sea.
This determination follows the Philippines' dissemination of images revealing the presence of a floating barrier impeding fishing vessel access in the Scarborough Shoal. These images depicted Chinese coast guard ships in proximity to the barrier. The Philippines affirmed its commitment to safeguarding the rights of its fishermen in the region.
"We condemn the installation of floating barriers by the Chinese coast guard," national security adviser Eduardo Año said in a statement."The placement by the People's Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen," he added.
The foreign ministry of the Philippines issued a strong statement, asserting that the barriers constituted a clear violation of international law. They further affirmed the Philippines' commitment to taking "all appropriate measures" to safeguard both the nation's sovereignty and the livelihood of its fisherfolk. Chinese Embassy in Manila remained unresponsive to requests for comment.
China asserts its claim over 90% of the South China Sea. This claim intersects with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In 2012, Beijing seized control of the Scarborough Shoal, prompting Filipino fishermen to travel farther in search of diminishing catches.
While conducting a routine patrol near the shoal, referred to locally as Bajo de Masinloc, personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and Fisheries Bureau came across a floating barrier, which was estimated to be around 300 meters (1,000 feet) in length. This confirmation came from Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard.
"We must exercise extreme caution to avoid any diplomatic missteps," emphasized Tarriela during a radio interview, prior to the government's official statements. He was responding to a query regarding whether the Coast Guard intended to remove the barrier.
Tarriela explained that, based on information provided by Filipino fishermen, the Chinese coast guard typically deploys such barriers when monitoring a significant number of fishermen in the area, only to remove them later.
In 2013, when the Philippines sought arbitration, China declined to participate, a move that followed a tense standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships at Scarborough a year earlier. Crucially, Beijing refused to acknowledge the arbitration ruling issued in 2016 and has persisted in disregarding it.
Additionally, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have actively impeded Philippine government vessels involved in the transport of supplies and personnel to the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal. These actions have led to perilous near-collisions, prompting condemnation and protests from the Philippine government.
The United States has explicitly stated its commitment to defend the Philippines, its longstanding treaty ally in Asia, in the event of any attack targeting Filipino forces, ships, or aircraft, including those operating in the South China Sea.
Image source: US News