In a concerning development, the Philippines has accused China's coastguard of erecting a "floating barrier" in a disputed region of the South China Sea.
This barrier, located within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), has raised tensions by obstructing Filipino fishermen from accessing their traditional fishing grounds.
The coastguard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources “strongly condemn” China’s installation of the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal, “which prevents Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities”, spokesperson Jay Tarriela said on Sunday.
The barrier, measuring approximately 300 meters (985 feet) in length, was discovered during a routine maritime patrol.
Philippine fishing boats attempting to operate in the area faced opposition from four Chinese coastguard vessels. These Chinese vessels initiated a series of 15 radio challenges, attempting to force the Filipino vessels to vacate the area.
Tarriela emphasized that the Philippine coastguard will collaborate closely with relevant government agencies to address these challenges. Their primary goal is to assert their maritime rights and safeguard their maritime domains in the face of this dispute.
In recent weeks, both countries have exchanged allegations of "illegal" incursions, involving incidents such as firing water cannons and engaging in risky boat manoeuvres within the disputed area.
These escalating tensions underscore the ongoing complexity of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.