The Philippines said Monday that it had carried out a "special operation" to remove a floating barrier installed by the China Coast Guard at Scarborough Shoal—also known as Bajo de Masinloca—in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it took a "decisive action" to remove the 300-meter-long floating barrier upon the orders of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The Philippine Coast Guard first discovered the barrier on Sept. 22.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said the barrier posed a hazard to navigation, which is a clear violation of international law, and deprived Filipino fishermen of their livelihood activities at the shoal.
"The 2016 Arbitral Award has affirmed that BDM [Bajo de Masinloc] is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen," Mr. Tarriela stated on X, formerly Twitter.
"Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates international law. It also infringes on the Philippines' sovereignty over BDM," he added.
A video shared by Mr. Tarriela showed a diver cutting what seemed to be the barrier rope using a knife. In another video, PCG personnel are seen pulling the anchor of the floating barrier onto a motorboat.
This comes a day after the PCG condemned the installation of the barrier by the China Coast Guard and maritime militia. National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said at the time the Philippines would take "all appropriate actions" to remove the barrier.
PCG and Fisheries Bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier during a routine maritime patrol on Sept. 22. Mr. Tarriela said they spotted three China Coast Guard rigid-hull inflatable boats and a maritime militia service boat installing the barrier at the shoal.
Filipino fishermen told the PCG that China Coast Guard ships typically install floating barriers when they monitor a large number of fishermen in the area.
Mr. Tarriela said there were over 50 Filipino fishing vessels operating near the shoal at the time.
The Chinese vessels issued 15 radio challenges to drive away the Fisheries Bureau and Filipino fishing vessels before moving away "upon realizing the presence of media personnel" onboard the Fisheries Bureau vessels.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin later defended the China Coast Guard's actions as professional and restrained. He said, "China has indisputable sovereignty over the island and its adjacent waters and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters."
Beijing's maritime claims violate international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a signatory.
The UNCLOS designates maritime areas within 200 nautical miles of coastal nations' borders as part of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and Scarborough Shoal is located 124 nautical miles from the Philippines' Zambales province.
In 2016, the Hague Tribunal sided with the Philippines in its territorial disputes over the South China Sea and ruled that Beijing's claims lacked legal basis.
However, Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.
Philippine President Marcos, who came into power last year, has vowed to uphold the Philippines' sovereign rights and assured Filipinos that his administration would not let the country "lose any of its territory."
Mr. Marcos has shifted from his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte's pro-Beijing stance and deepened ties with the United States, which he recognizes as the Philippines' sole treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific.
Under his leadership, the U.S. military has been granted increased access to Philippine military bases, and joint patrols in the South China Sea—which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea—were resumed.