China’s installation of a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea sparked fury in the Philippines on Sunday.
The Philippine Coast Guard discovered the 300-meter-long (about 1,000 feet) barrier near Scarborough Reef, a rock about 120 miles off the coast of the Philippine province of Zambales, the Philippine coast guard said. Coast Guard, Jay Tarriela. wrote in a statement published on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday evening. Scarborough Shoal has been disputed between China and the Philippines, but was taken by China in 2012.
Tarriela wrote that Manila “strongly condemns” the barrier, which prevents Filipino fishing boats “from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities.”
The dispute is the latest territorial deal involving China in the South China Sea, over which Beijing claims 90% control, amid ongoing tensions between the two countries. Several clashes between the two sides over various rocks and islands in the sea have taken place this year, including a dispute in July. China has taken a tough stance on its claimed territory in recent years as tensions with the West and its Indo-Pacific allies have continued to crumble over a number of issues, including Taiwan and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The barrier was discovered by Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessels during a routine maritime patrol, according to Tarriela. Filipino fishermen working in the area said China installs these barriers whenever it monitors a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area, he added.
During that patrol, BFAR provided the fishermen with food and fuel when four Chinese coast guard vessels made radio calls to chase them away, alleging their presence violated international law, Tarriela wrote.
“Philippine Coast Guard Commander Admiral Artemio Abu expresses his commitment to support the BFAR and other national government agencies in their efforts to ensure the safety and security of our Filipino fishermen. The PCG will continue to work in working closely with all relevant government agencies to address these challenges, defend our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains,” he wrote in his post
News week contacted the China International Press Center for comment via email.
The dispute comes just days after the Philippines accused China of destroying coral reefs in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, vowing to take legal action over broken and bleached reefs, once vibrant aquatic ecosystems, Reuters reported. China, however, dismissed the concerns, calling them an attempt to create “political drama.”
Manila said in July that a Filipino crew was warned to “seriously consider the solemn position of the Chinese government” during a resupply mission near Second Thomas Shoal that has been controversial for decades.
In March, the Philippines said it was tracking dozens of armed Chinese fishing boats that reportedly circled Thitu Island, another disputed territory, in a bid to assert its claims to the region.