Philippine Coast Guard Encourages Fishermen to Operate in Scarborough Shoal Amid Tensions
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is urging local fishermen to continue their operations in Bajo de Masinloc, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, a contested area in the West Philippine Sea. The call comes despite the presence of Chinese vessels and a recent incident involving a 300-meter floating barrier installed by the China Coast Guard. This barrier was subsequently removed by the PCG, following an order by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a move that sparked a warning from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
China continually asserts sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, a claim that was dismissed in a 2016 international court ruling that found no legal basis for these assertions. However, despite the legal verdict, the situation remains tense, with the PCG pledging to ramp up its patrols in the area to safeguard Filipino fishermen.
Philippine officials have expressed strong condemnation towards the floating barrier installed by the Chinese coast guard at a disputed site. The 300-meter long barrier, which prevented Filipino fishing boats from entering a lagoon at Scarborough Shoal, was deemed illegal and illegitimate by the Philippine government. Eduardo Ano, the Philippine National Security Adviser, stated that the barrier violated the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen and assured that the Philippines would take all appropriate actions to cause the removal of the barriers and protect the rights of their fishermen.
China’s Claim Disputed by International Law
The Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, are embroiled in territorial disputes with China over the resource-rich South China Sea, a major global trade route. The United States, while not laying claim to the sea passageway, has carried out patrols for decades to challenge China’s expansive claims and promote freedom of navigation and overflight.
Impact on Food Security and the Way Forward
The installation of the floating barrier by China’s coast guard has significant implications for food security, denying Filipino fishermen access to the rich fishing lagoon surrounded by underwater coral outcrops. The PCG, however, remains resolute in its commitment to uphold international law, safeguard the welfare of Filipino fishermen, and protect the rights of the Philippines in its territorial waters. The Philippine government’s efforts to fight China’s actions highlight the intensifying struggle for sovereignty in one of the world’s most hotly contested waters.
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