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‘Do not stir up trouble’: China threatens as Philippines removes ‘floating barriers’ placed by China in the contested waters of South China Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard posted videos showing a diver cutting what seems to be the barrier rope.

On Tuesday, September 26, China issued a warning to the Philippines asking the island country of Southeast Asia to not ‘stir up trouble.’ The threat came after the Philippine Coast Guard said it removed the floating barrier that was allegedly deployed by China in the contested waters of the South China Sea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Beijing “firmly upholds the sovereignty and maritime rights and interests of the Huangyan island”, referring to the shoal by its Chinese name.

“We advise the Philippines not to provoke or stir up trouble,” Wang added.

In a move that could probably escalate tensions between the two Asian countries over territorial claims in the area, the Philippine Coast Guard had on Monday, September 25, removed the floating barrier which prevented Filipinos from fishing within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It asserted that it has complied with a presidential order to remove a floating barrier placed by China’s coast guard.

The Philippine Coast Guard asserted that it has complied with a presidential order to remove a floating barrier placed by China’s coast guards in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

Philippine officials condemned the installation of the 300-meter (980-foot) -long barrier at the entrance to the lagoon at Scarborough Shoal as a violation of international law and the Southeast Asian nation’s sovereignty.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano declared, “The Philippines is well within its rights to eliminate any barrier at Bajo de Masinloc, as it encroaches upon our maritime rights.” Notably, Bajo de Masinloc is the Philippines’ indigenous name for the reef.

On Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard posted a video on X, formally Twitter, showing a diver cutting what seems to be the barrier rope. Another video showed a man on a motorboat attempting to lift what looks to be a portion of the barrier.

Coming down heavily on China for the installation of the ‘floating barriers’ in the contested waters of the South China Sea, PCG spokesperson Jay Tarriela, in a statement on social media platform X wrote, “Philippine Coast Guard Successfully Removes Hazardous Floating Barrier in Compliance with Presidential Instruction In compliance with the instruction of the President, the Chairman, National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), Sec. Eduardo Año, has directed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to execute a special operation to remove the floating barrier that obstructed the Southeast entrance of Bajo De Masinloc (BDM).

“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law. It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in BDM, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory. The 2016 Arbitral Award has affirmed that BDM is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates the international law.”

“It also infringes on the Philippines’ sovereignty over BDM. The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal. The PCG remains committed to upholding international law, safeguarding the welfare of Filipino fisherfolk, and protecting the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters,” PCG spokesperson Jay Tarriela wrote.

China has not commented publicly on the issue

China accused by the Philippines of harming coral reefs

Earlier this week, the PCG released images of devastated and bleached coral reefs in the South China Sea, accusing China of widespread devastation in the region. According to CNN, a PCG spokeswoman stated that the existence of such crushed corals indicates a “possible act of “dumping,” suggesting that the same corals were processed and cleaned before being returned to the bottom.

Chinese ship throws ‘military grade’ laser, fires water canons at Philippines Coast Guard vessel

Following Beijing’s repeated provocations against Filipino boats, the Philippines and China are particularly embroiled in the confrontation over the disputed territory.

In February this year, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) accused a China Coast Guard ship of pointing a “military grade” laser at some of its crew, temporarily blinding them.

The Chinese Coast Guard allegedly deployed a water cannon to prevent a Filipino supply boat from transporting troops, food, water, and fuel to the Philippine-occupied Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed waters last month.

Chinese ships had obstructed and shadowed naval vessels providing food and supplies to Filipino sailors on the ship in the shoal, which had been encircled for years by Chinese coast guard ships and a swarm of Chinese fishing boats.

Dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea

Notably, China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the 1.3 million square miles South China Sea, as well as most of the islands within it. That includes the Spratlys, an archipelago consisting of 100 small islands and reefs also claimed in full or part by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. 

The Philippines calls the area the West Philippine Sea and in 1999 intentionally grounded a navy transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, on Second Thomas Shoal, which is still manned by Filipino marines to enforce Manila’s claim to the area. 

Beijing has been trying for years to prevent the Philippine Navy’s resupply missions in Ayungin Shoal and has displayed new tactics over the past few months. 

Except for the small wooden boats chartered by the Navy, the CCG has been preventing Philippine military and law enforcement vessels from entering the shoal. 

The Philippines in response to China’s claims, dragged it to the International Court of Justice, where it won the case, but China refused to adhere to the verdict.

Other countries with which China has disputes over the South China Sea

The prominent countries with whom China is involved in severe disputes apart from India are Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Japan. Vietnam maintains its territorial claim over regions of the South China Sea and the Macclesfield Bank, Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands. China has also enforced a unilateral ban on fishing in these regions, much to the angst of Vietnam.

Japan’s dispute with China involves the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea and the Ryukyu Islands and the Air Defence Identification Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone in the East China Sea. In the aftermath of the clash at Galwan Valley between Indian and Chinese soldiers, Japan initiated a legal process to change the status of the Senkaku Islands, angering China.

Indonesia claims territorial control over parts of the South China Sea. Three years ago, the Indonesian government renamed parts of the disputed region to North Natuna Sea to underscore its claim. China claims fishing rights near the islands in the Natuna Sea/Exclusive Economic Zone of Indonesia, a claim that the latter rejects on the basis of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China’s dispute with Malaysia also involves the South China Sea. Malaysia has a presence on three islands that China claims as its own, leading to disputes. Brunei also claims parts of the South China Sea as part of its continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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