Sets 300-m floating barrier to keep Filipino fishermen out of shoal
Philippine officials and lawmakers on Sunday denounced China’s installation of a floating barrier in the southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough) Shoal, which prevents Filipino fishermen from entering the area to catch fish.
The floating barrier, with an estimated length of 300 meters, was discovered by personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) onboard the BRP Datu Bankaw, which conducted a maritime patrol mission on Friday, Sept. 22 in the vicinity of the shoal.
Three Chinese Coast Guard boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat installed the floating barrier upon the arrival of the BFAR vessel, the PCG said in a statement. Filipino fishermen note that the CCG usually installs floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of them in the area.
BFAR found more than 50 Filipino fishing boats in the area during its routine patrol.
The PCG said BFAR provided these fishermen with various grocery items and fuel subsidies to sustain their operations.
Four CCG vessels, however, initiated a series of 15 radio challenges in an attempt to drive away the BFAR vessel and Filipino fishers.
“The CCG crew alleged that the presence of the BFAR vessel and Filipino fishermen violated international law and the domestic laws of the People’s Republic of China,” the PCG said.
The PCG said the Chinese vessel that issued the challenge maintained a safe distance then moved away when it realized there were media aboard the BFAR vessel.
PCG commandant Admiral Artemio Abu expressed his commitment to supporting the BFAR and other national government agencies in their efforts to ensure the safety and security of Filipino fishermen.
“The PCG will continue to work closely with the government to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights, and protect our maritime territories.” Abu said.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday requested the PCG to immediately cut and remove all illegal barriers in the West Philippine Sea.
He said this would not just assert the country’s sovereign rights, but also protect Filipino fishermen from any possible accidents that may be caused by the barriers.
Zubiri said the Chinese have no right to put any structures within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
structures also pose a danger to passing fishing boats that could get entangled on the lines
Secondly, he said thseese structures pose a danger on passing fishing boats that can get entangled in the lines.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also denounced the Chinese action.
“China’s cruelty knows no bounds,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino. “They have shamelessly and aggressively blocked our fishermen in our own waters.”
“Filipino fisherfolk are among the poorest in our country. They only rely on our seas for their food and their livelihood,” she said, as she condemned China’s destruction of the marine environment to the detriment of future generations.
She said she trusts the PCG can escort Filipino fishermen to ensure they can pass through the floating barriers.
“We should no longer accept acts like this going unpunished. If we allow China’s bullying to continue, it will cost the lives of our own people,” she said.
Senator Francis Tolentino said it was well within the country’s right to remove the floating barriers.
From the House, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro also condemned China for unjustly blocking Filipino fishermen from accessing their traditional fishing grounds.
She said this was a blatant violation of our country’s sovereignty and an infringement on the rights and livelihood of Filipino fishermen.
“The installation of these barriers is a clear display of China’s aggressive and expansionist actions in the West Philippine Sea. It is a deliberate attempt to assert dominance and control over the maritime resources that rightfully belong to the Filipino people,” she said.
“Our fishermen have been fishing in Scarborough Shoal for generations, relying on it for their sustenance and livelihood. By obstructing their access, China is not only depriving them of their right to earn a living but also undermining our national sovereignty,” she added.
She called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to intensify efforts in asserting the Philippines’ territorial rights through diplomatic channels, while mobilizing international solidarity to pressure China to respect international law and uphold the rights of Filipino fishermen.
“Our fishermen are not pawns in a geopolitical game. They deserve our full support and protection. We stand in solidarity with them and demand that China immediately remove these barriers, allowing our fishermen to exercise their rights and livelihood without hindrance,” she said.
Also on Sunday, the PCG rejected Beijing’s claim that the Philippines is “creating political drama from fiction” over the destruction of corals in parts of the West Philippine Sea, and said that harvesting and dumping corals at Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal a serious crime.
Mao Ning, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson earlier in the week accused Manila of “creating a political drama from fiction” over the corals and said it should remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal to protect the marine ecosystem in the area.
“The destruction of corals goes far beyond drama,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea said in response on Sunday.
“It is a violent act and a serious crime against humanity,” he added.
The destruction of corals affects marine life and the livelihoods of fishers dependent on them and the effects of coral harvesting at Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal could last for decades.
He also said the PCG is monitoring other areas of the West Philippine Sea where corals may have been harvested.
“Stop making allegations that the BRP Sierra Madre is polluting the water, but blame [the pollution] on your numerous Chinese maritime militia swarming the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” Tarriela also said.
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro on Saturday called China a hypocrite over its remarks on environmental damage in the West Philippine Sea, adding these remarks “will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese government.”