Philippine lawmakers have voiced strong opposition against China's placement of a floating barrier in the southern section of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc). The barrier obstructs Filipino fishing boats from accessing the prime fishing area, leading to an outcry among the local community and the government.
Senator Risa Hontiveros described the actions of China as cruel and aggressive, urging the national government to reject such behavior. She also expressed her hope that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) could facilitate the local fisherfolk, who belong to the country's economically weakest citizens, to pass through the barriers.
Joining her in condemnation, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri stated that China has no right to place any structures within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone and called for the immediate removal of the barriers, which could potentially damage the fishing boats. Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also criticized China for showing a lack of respect for Philippine sovereignty.
Senator Francis Tolentino echoed these sentiments, arguing that China is in violation of international law. The lawmakers' united front signifies a strong stance against China's actions in the disputed territory.
Discovery of the Floating Barrier
The floating barrier was discovered by the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) during a maritime patrol. Notably, the China Coast Guard (CCG) claimed that the presence of the BFAR vessel and Filipino fishermen violated international and domestic Chinese law. They issued 15 radio challenges to drive them away, before the CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat installed the floating barrier.
PCG and BFAR Condemn China's Actions
The PCG and BFAR strongly condemned this action, with a spokesperson describing the barrier as a “navigational hazard”. This incident has added fuel to the ongoing disputes over territorial rights and fishing access in the region. The placement of the barrier has significant implications for the local fisherfolk. The area is a prime fishing spot, and blocking access to it deprives these fishermen of their livelihood. The issue extends beyond territorial disputes and impacts the local economy and the lives of the citizens directly.