MANILA—The Philippines on Sept. 24 accused China's coast guard of installing a "floating barrier" within its exclusive economic zones, preventing Filipinos from entering and fishing in an area that the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its territory in the South China Sea.
Manila's coast guard 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 coast guard spokesperson, posted on the X social media platform, formerly Twitter.
"The (Philippine Coast Guard) will continue to work closely with all concerned government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights, and protect our maritime domains," Mr. Tarriela said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila didn't immediately reply to requests for comment.
China is laying claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, which overlaps with the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Beijing unilaterally seized the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and forced fishermen from the Philippines to travel further for smaller catches.
The regime allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the uninhabited shoal when bilateral relations improved markedly under then-President Rodrigo Duterte. However, tension has mounted again since his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., took office last year.
Philippines coast guard and Fisheries Bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, estimated at 1,000 feet long, on a routine patrol on Sept. 22 near the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, Mr. Tarriela said.
Three Chinese coast guard 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, Mr. 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 realizing the presence of media personnel onboard the (Filipino) vessel," he said.
However, Beijing's maritime claims have been found to be in violation of international law as reflected in the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to the Hague in its 2016 ruling against Beijing's claims.
The UNCLOS designates maritime areas within 200 nautical miles of coastal nations' borders as part of their EEZs. China is a signatory to the UNCLOS.