Philippines To Remove Any Barrier China Installs In The Disputed South China Sea
Freedivers from the Philippine Coast Guard have dismantled a 300-meter floating barrier set up by the Chinese Coast Guard to restrict Filipino vessels from entering a traditional fishing area in the South China Sea.
The divers removed buoyed rope and net obstructing the entrance to the Scarborough Shoal lagoon in a “special operation” reported on September 25. This was done by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines’ orders, who had previously denounced China’s construction of the barrier as a violation of international law and his nation’s sovereign rights.
A small coral reef surrounds the traditional fishing region within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A 2016 international arbitration decision affirmed the zone, but China has refused to recognize the finding.
More than 50 Philippines fishing boats were waiting to enter the lagoon when four China Coast Guard vessels erected the barrier. When a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (BFAR) patrol vessel arrived, a standoff ensued.
While the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated that the region was Chinese territory and that its sovereignty was “indisputable,” the Philippine Coast Guard declared that it was “committed to upholding international law, safeguarding the welfare of Filipino fishermen, and protecting the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters.”
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan are at odds over the South China Sea corridor. According to the USA, if the Philippines were to come under assault in the region, it would have their backing.
Massive’ coral harvesting
Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal in the West Philippine Sea have been left devoid of coral, according to underwater images obtained by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) naval divers elsewhere in the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This comes after what the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) called “massive harvesting” by Chinese maritime militia ships.
Weeks later, when the boats departed Rozul for a different reef, the AFP conducted an underwater assessment in coordination with scientists to determine the extent of the damage. A marine habitat with “minimal to no signs of life” was reported to be revealed by it. Before the debris was re-dumped on the ocean floor, corals looked to have been grown and prepared.
According to WESCOM, the alleged looting is believed to have started as early as July when many Chinese warships gathered in the region, which is 150 nautical miles from Palawan.
The rising number of Chinese fishing boats raises questions about the possible effects on the maritime security, fisheries conservation, territorial integrity, and preservation of the marine environment in the Philippines, according to WESCOM. “These activities have been a source of tension in the West Philippine Sea and have contributed to instability in the region.”
Although it has acknowledged not having enough resources to cover the whole region, the Philippine Navy would enhance its presence in the EEZ with Coast Guard and BFAR patrols to avoid a repeat of the incident.
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