Beijing says its coastguard took necessary measures in accordance with law to drive away a Philippine vessel.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the installation of a “floating barrier” in a disputed area in the South China Sea, saying its coastguard took necessary measures in accordance with the law to drive away a Philippine vessel.
Spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the comments on Monday after the Philippines said the buoys near the Scarborough Shoal prevented Filipinos from fishing in the area. Wang 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.
In Manila, the national security adviser said on Monday that the Philippines will take “all appropriate actions to cause the removal of barriers”, setting up a potential face-off with China’s coastguard.
“We condemn the installation of floating barriers by Chinese coast guard,” Eduardo Ano said in a statement. “The placement by the People’s Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen.”
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday 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, estimated at 300 metres (1,000ft) long, on a routine patrol on Friday near the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc.
“We have to be very careful [not to commit] any diplomatic misstep,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, a coastguard spokesperson, said in a radio interview on Monday when asked whether the coastguard is planning to remove the barrier.
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.