The Philippines said China has installed a roughly 1,000-foot-long barrier in the disputed South China Sea. Photo courtesy of Philippines Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela/X
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The Philippines said Monday it would take "all appropriate actions" to remove a floating barrier it accuses China of erecting in a disputed area of the South China Sea, a move that threatens to further fray fraught relations between the Asian neighbors.
National security adviser Eduardo Año assured the Philippine public in a statement carried by the state-run Philippine News Agency that the floating barrier would be removed.
"We condemn the installation of floating barriers by the Chinese Coast Guard," he said.
The nearly 1,000-foot barrier was discovered Friday blocking Filipino fishing boats from entering the Scarborough Shoal, a triangle-shaped chain of reefs about 120 nautical miles west of the Philippines' Zambales Province in Luzon.
The Coast Guard made the discovery public Sunday, posting pictures and video of the barrier on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Coast guard spokesman Jay Tarriela said three Chinese Coast Guard boats along with Chinese maritime militia service vessels installed the floating barrier in the southeast portion of the shoal, affecting the livelihoods of Filipino fishermen.
Some 50 Filipino fishing boats were in the area and Chinese Coast Guard vessels initiated 15 radio challenges, accusing them of violating international and Chinese laws. However, the Chinese vessels left the area "upon realizing the presence of media personnel" aboard Filipino government boats that had responded to the situation, Tarriela said.
China lays claim to 90% of the South China Sea through its Nine-Dash-Line maps that were rejected in 2016 by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration on the grounds that Beijing had no historic rights to the region.
Though both countries claim sovereignty over the shoal, as well as Taiwan, China has controlled the sandbar it calls Huangyan Island since 2012 and it has been a focal point of confrontation between the countries since.
In his statement Monday, Año reminded China of the 2016 decision and that Filipinos have been fishing in the area 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 said.
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been informed and the National Security Council said it was awaiting his response.
Officials have suggested that they are within their legal rights to remove the barriers as they are located inside the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.