President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Friday said he will not allow China to erect any barriers within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), which can hamper the movements of Filipino fishermen.
“We cannot allow [them] to put such barriers [in an area], which is clearly within the Philippines [territory],” the chief executive told reporters in Filipino after the distribution of rice in Surigao Del Norte.
He said while the government does not want any conflict with China, his administration is ready to defend the country’s maritime territory.
The President made the pronouncement after the Chinese Coast Guard installed buoys, which served as floating barriers in the Scarborough Shoal, which is locally known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
The barrier temporarily prevented Filipino fishermen from accessing the shoal which serves as a rich fishing ground.
Marcos ordered the Philippine Coast Guard to remove the said restriction so local fishermen can resume their regular activities in the area.
“With the ropes [of the barriers] cut, our fishermen were able to enter [Panatag shoal] and were able to catch 164 tons of fish…that is how much our fishermen will be losing [because of such restrictions],” Marcos said.
The President earlier said the government will use legal and diplomatic means to enforce its territorial claims in the WPS.
China’s latest move in the WPS drew condemnation from several ambassadors for being provocative and a violation of international law.
The 2016 arbitral award affirmed the Panatag Shoal is located within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
However, the ruling classified the shoal as a traditional fishing ground, which must be made accessible to fishermen from all countries.
Image credits: AP/Rolex Dela Peña