Senators condemn China’s floating barrier in West Philippine Sea
September 25, 2023 | 10:18am
MANILA, Philippines — Senators have criticized China Coast Guard’s move to install a barrier in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) that prevents Filipino fishing boats from accessing the area and have called for the removal of the floating device.
“China’s cruelty knows no bounds. They are shamelessly aggressive in blocking our fishermen from our own seas,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said following the installation of a 300-meter floating barrier in the southern portion of Bajo de Masinloc, a fishing ground off Zambales that has been utilized by generations of Filipinos.
The minority senator also called on the Marcos administration to review the national policy toward China.
“We should no longer accept acts like this going unpunished. If we allow China’s bullying to continue, it will cost the lives of our own people,” Hontiveros said.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that the installation of floating devices in Bajo de Masinloc significantly impacts the livelihood of fishermen who depend on the seas.
Fisherfolk are among the country’s poorest sectors. Fishers’ group PAMALAKAYA previously reported that Filipino fishermen have suffered a 70% reduction in income per fishing trip since China increased its presence in the shoal during the Duterte administration.
Filipino fishers have observed that the CCG typically installs floating barriers when they monitor a large number of fishermen in the area, according to Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the PCG for West Philippine Sea matters.
‘Remove the barrier’
Sen. Francis Tolentino expressed support for the proposal to remove the floating barrier.
“China should not make our fishermen suffer when fishing in our own seas. China’s installation of a floating barrier violates international law, and should be promptly removed,” he said.
A special Senate panel started its hearings last week on bills seeking to delineate the country’s internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Bajo de Masinloc is just 240 kilometers west of Luzon, and nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass of Hainan.
Beijing claims the majority of the South China Sea, including parts that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, despite an arbitration ruling in 2016 declaring this has no legal basis.