CHINA admitted on Monday, September 25, 2023, that its coast guard authorities have installed floating barriers in the Scarborough Shoal, which they referred to as Huangyan Island, in order to “stop and warn off” Philippine vessels from trespassing.
"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," said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wanf Wenbin.
“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.
The official maintained that the shoal is China’s inherent territory and that it has “indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island and its adjacent waters and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters.”
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines and invalidated China’s claims within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line, which is over 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal.
The ruling also affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen in the area.
The filing of the case by the Philippine government stemmed from the April 2012 stand-off between Chinese authorities and the Philippine Navy after Filipino fishermen were prevented from entering the Scarborough Shoal, one of the region’s richest fishing grounds and a flashpoint between the two countries.
In a statement, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said the Philippines will take all appropriate actions to cause the removal of the barriers, as well as to protect the rights of Filipino fishermen in the area.
“We condemn the installation of floating barriers by Chinese Coast Guard in Bajo de Masinloc. The placement by the Peoples Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights to have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral ruling,” he said.
“It ruled categorically that such action by the PRC violated the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen in the shoal who have been fishing there for centuries. Any State that prevents them from doing artisanal fishing there violates Unclos United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and international law, in general,” he added.
Año said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is fully aware of the matter.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela earlier said that the action of the Philippine government about the matter depends on the order of Marcos, as well as the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), which is chaired by Año.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), for its part, maintained that Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of the Philippines over which “we have sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction according to Unclos which extends the territorial jurisdiction of maritime states up to 200 nautical miles from its coasts.”
It said it will take “all appropriate measures to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk.”
"China’s reported installation of barriers and its negative impact on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk or any other activity that infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereignty and jurisdiction in Bajo de Masinloc are violations of international law, particularly Unclos and the Arbitral Award," the DFA added. (SunStar Philippines)