In a recent development in the ongoing South China Sea dispute, the Philippines has announced its commitment to taking decisive actions to remove barriers obstructing access to the Scarborough Shoal, an area rich in marine resources. National Security Advisor Eduardo Año emphasized the Philippines’ dedication to protecting the rights of its fishermen and condemned the installation of these barriers by the Chinese coast guard.
The dispute revolves around the Scarborough Shoal, known locally as Bajo de Masinloc, which is located in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over approximately 90% of the South China Sea, a claim that overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of several neighboring countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Tensions escalated when China seized the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, resulting in Filipino fishermen having to travel greater distances to secure their catches. This move not only affected their livelihoods but also created a diplomatic challenge for the Philippines.
The recent incident involving the installation of floating barriers by the Chinese coast guard has further exacerbated these tensions. The barriers, estimated to be around 300 meters (1,000 feet) in length, were discovered by Philippine coast guard and fisheries bureau personnel during a routine patrol near the shoal. These barriers hinder fishing vessel access to the area, directly impacting the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.
National Security Advisor Eduardo Año issued a strong statement, condemning the installation of these barriers and emphasizing the violation of the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen by the People’s Republic of China. The Philippines’ foreign ministry echoed these sentiments, declaring that the barriers constituted a clear violation of international law.
The Philippines’ Response: The Philippine government has pledged to take all appropriate actions to address this issue and protect the country’s sovereignty and the livelihoods of its fisherfolk. However, Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Philippine coast guard, emphasized the need for caution in diplomatic efforts. He mentioned that the installation of such barriers by the Chinese coast guard is often a response to increased fishing activity in the area and is typically removed later.
China’s Stance: While the Philippines has taken a strong stance against these barriers, the Chinese embassy in Manila has not yet responded to requests for comment. China’s claims in the South China Sea remain a contentious issue, as multiple nations with conflicting territorial claims vie for control over this strategically important region.
Conclusion: The Philippines’ commitment to protecting the rights of its fishermen and asserting its sovereignty in the South China Sea is a significant development in this ongoing dispute. The installation of barriers by the Chinese coast guard underscores the complex nature of the issue, with diplomatic efforts playing a crucial role in finding a resolution.