China’s Foreign Ministry said its coast guard was taking necessary steps to deter and expel Philippine vessels from the disputed South China Sea .
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s statement on Monday (25/9/2023) came after the Philippines accused China of installing a “floating barrier” on the Scarborough Reef. Manila said the barrier prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing in the area.
On Saturday (23/9/2023), Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Jose Tarriela said the Coast Guard and the Philippine Bureau of Maritime Resources and Fisheries “strongly condemn” China’s installation of barriers on Scarborough Reef.
He said the barrier prevented Filipino fishermen from visiting the reef, thereby limiting their fishing activities.
“(The Philippine Coast Guard) continues to work together with all relevant government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights, and protect our maritime territory,” said Tarriela, on social media X.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. In 2021, Beijing seized Scarborough Reef and forced Filipino fishermen to go to sea further to get smaller catches.
Beijing allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the uninhabited shoal as bilateral relations improved under President Rodrigo Duterte. However, tensions have risen again since his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, took office last year.
Tarriela said Philippine coast guard and fisheries bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, which is estimated to be 300 meters long, during a routine patrol last Friday (22/9/2023). The barrier was installed near a reef known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc.
He said three guard-hulled inflatable boats and a Chinese maritime militia service vessel put up barriers when the Philippine ships arrived.
Source : REPUBLIKA