China Warns the Philippine Coast Guard Over Disputed Shoal
Philippines Removed a Floating Barrier at Scarborough Shoal
This move comes as tensions escalate between the two countries over various areas in the disputed South China Sea.
The disputed reef, known as Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines and Huangyan Island by China, has been a source of contention for both countries. China had installed the floating barrier in an attempt to block Filipino fishermen from accessing the traditional fishing ground within their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Wang Wenbin, stated that China "firmly upholds the sovereignty and maritime rights and interests of the Huangyan island." He advised the Philippines not to provoke or stir up trouble.
The Philippine authorities had previously announced their intention to take "all appropriate actions" to remove the barriers, which they claimed were endangering Filipino fishermen. The removal of the buoys was ordered by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., further angering Beijing.
The latest dispute adds to the existing tensions between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea. China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire waterway, but this claim was invalidated by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in a 2016 ruling. The court declared China's claim groundless and recognized the overlapping claims of other countries, including the Philippines.
The incident at Scarborough Shoal occurred as tensions are already high over the Spratly Islands, another area in the South China Sea. China and several other countries have overlapping claims to parts of the Spratly Islands.
The latest confrontation began when the Philippine coastguard discovered a 300-meter (985 ft) long barrier during a routine maritime patrol. The barrier was guarded by Chinese coastguard boats, and when Filipino fishermen approached the area, Chinese coastguard vessels initiated a series of radio challenges in an attempt to drive them away.
On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Wang defended their actions, stating that the coastguard took necessary measures in accordance with the law to drive away Filipino fishermen. In response, Filipino authorities removed the buoys on the orders of President Marcos Jr., further escalating tensions with China.
The Scarborough Shoal has been a source of contention for years. China claims historic rights to the area, referring to it as Huangyan Island, while the Philippines insists it has fishing rights over the disputed area within its EEZ. The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that the Scarborough Shoal is not even an island, questioning China's claims.
As tensions continue to rise over the disputed areas in the South China Sea, it remains to be seen how this latest confrontation between China and the Philippines will be resolved. The international community is closely watching the situation as countries stake their claims and assert their rights in the contested waters.