By Priam Nepomuceno

ILLEGAL. Floating barriers with an estimated length of 300 meters southeast of Bajo de Masinloc were discovered by the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources personnel onboard BRP Datu Bankaw during a routine maritime patrol on Sept. 22, 2023. Filipino fisherfolk reported that Chinese vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they see local boats in the area. (Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – National Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Monday assured the Philippines will take all appropriate actions to remove the floating barriers placed by the China Coast Guard (CCG) off Bajo de Masinloc (BDM) or the Scarborough Shoal.

Año said they will protect the rights of Filipino fisherfolk in the area.

“We condemn the installation of floating barriers by CCG in BDM. The placement by the People’s Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” he said in a statement.

He reminded that the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration categorically stated that such action by China violates the traditional rights of Filipinos who have been fishing there for centuries.

“Any State that prevents them from doing artisanal fishing there violates UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and international law, in general,” Año said.

As this developed, the National Security Council (NSC) announced that it has already completed the report on China’s act.

“Unang una po ay naihanda na po ng NSC ang aming report sa ating Pangulo (President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) tungkol sa nadiskubre natin sa Bajo De Masinloc na may barrier. Lahat po ng mga pangunahing pangyayari sa Bajo De Masinloc, sa Ayungin Shoal at sa Kalayaan Island Group ay lagi po naming pinaparating sa ating Pangulo (First of all, the NSC has already completed the report for the President regarding the barrier we discovered off Bajo De Masinloc. All major incidents involving Bajo De Masinloc, Ayungin Shoal and the Kalayaan Island Group are immediately reported to the President),” NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said during Monday’s Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon multi-agency public forum on PTV, where he is one of the co-anchors.

Malaya said they are now awaiting the President’s response to the NSC report.

Asked whether the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) can remove the floating barriers, Malaya, who is also National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea spokesperson, emphasized that Bajo de Masinloc is near the province of Zambales and is well within the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Bilang parte ng ating EEZ, tayo po ay may karapatan dyan. ‘Yun pong tinatawag na maritime entitlement natin particularly para po sa ating mga mangingisda at kailangan malaya silang mangisda diyan (as part our EEZ, we have rights called maritime entitlement for our fishermen and they need to be able to fish freely there),” Malaya noted.

The PCG earlier scored the CCG for the installation of floating barriers at BDM that prevented the entry of Filipino fishing boats and their crew.

A statement from the PCG on Sunday said the floating barrier with an estimated length of 300 meters was discovered by its personnel and officers of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources onboard the BRP Datu Bankaw during a routine maritime patrol at the BDM vicinity on Sept. 22. (PNA)