BEIJING warned Manila not to “stir up trouble” after the Philippine Coast Guard said it removed a floating barrier at a disputed reef that was allegedly deployed by China to block Filipinos from the traditional fishing ground.
“China firmly upholds the sovereignty and maritime rights and interests of the Huangyan island,” said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, referring to the shoal by its Chinese name.
“We advise the Philippines not to provoke or stir up trouble.”
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, while several other countries, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims to parts of it.
Philippine National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano has vowed to take “all appropriate actions” for the removal of barriers installed by the Chinese coast guard at the reef, called Scarborough Shoal by Manila, in the disputed waterway.
A 300m floating barrier was found across the entrance of the shoal last week during a routine government resupply mission to Filipino fishermen plying the waters near the Chinese-controlled reef. It was not clear from the Philippine statement if the entire barrier had been removed.
The Philippine Coast Guard released a video showing a man wearing snorkelling gear using a knife to sever a rope attached to white buoys, while another showed an anchor being hauled from the water into a wooden outrigger boat.
The coastguard announced it had “successfully” removed the barrier “in compliance with presidential instruction”.
China seized the disputed reef from the Philippines in 2012. — AFP