Manila’s coastguard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources “strongly condemn” China’s installation of the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal, Commodore Jay Tarriela, a coastguard spokesperson, posted on the X social media platform, formerly Twitter.
The barrier blocking fishermen from the shoal was “depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities”, he said.
“The [Philippine coastguard] will continue to work closely with all concerned government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains,” Tarriela said.
Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, estimated at 300m (1,000 feet) long, on a routine patrol on Friday near the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, Tarriela said.
Three Chinese coastguard rigid-hull inflatable boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat installed the barrier when the Philippine vessel arrived, he said.
Filipino fishermen say China typically installs such barriers when they monitor a large number of fishermen in the area, Tarriela said.
The Chinese boats issued 15 radio challenges and accused the Philippine ship and fishermen of violating international and China’s laws, before moving away “upon realising the presence of media personnel on board the [Filipino] vessel”, he said.
As the maritime discord over the resource-rich waterway remained elevated, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said his country, Japan and the United States have forged a trilateral alliance against Chinese incursions in the sea.
“The Philippines, as you are aware, continues to face challenges with sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea,” Manalo said during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.
The West Philippine Sea is the term used by Manila to describe the eastern parts of the South China Sea that are within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial waters.
“The three countries will continue to call out behaviour that is inconsistent with international law, including the [People’s Republic of China’s] recent actions near Second Thomas Shoal that interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation,” Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro accused Beijing of “hypocrisy” for claiming the rusting warship BRP Sierra Madre grounded in an outcrop had polluted the South China Sea, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
“The statement of China that the grounded Sierra Madre is causing irrevocable harm is to put it as politely as possible – hypocritical,” Teodoro said.
China’s statement about the ship “will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese government,” he said.
His response came after China’s foreign ministry this week said the Philippines should tow away the vessel and stop it from discharging polluted water into the ocean.
The Philippines intentionally grounded the ship in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claim to Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin.
Additional reporting by SCMP’s Asia desk