(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines will continue to defend its maritime territory and the rights of Filipino fisherfolk, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in his first remarks since the Southeast Asian nation’s coast guard cut a floating barrier that China installed at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
“We’re not looking for trouble,” Marcos said Friday. “We don’t want to engage in a heated argument, but we’re firm in our defense of Philippine territory.”
Filipino fishermen caught 164 tons of fish on the day the Philippine coast guard cut off the barrier, Marcos said. “That’s what our fishermen lose, so there should be no barrier there.”
On Thursday, China’s coast guard said it removed the floating barrier itself on Sept. 23, a day after installing it to prevent entry of a Philippine ship. China’s coast guard accused the Philippines of “making up a story” by saying that it removed the floating barrier as Beijing reiterated its sovereignty in the Scarborough shoal and the surrounding area.
On Friday, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela showed the media the anchor which he said was taken from China’s barrier. The rest of the structure was recovered by the Chinese Coast Guard, he said.
Philippine authorities flew over the shoal on Thursday and spotted three Chinese Coast Guard and a militia vessel there, said Tarriela. Two Filipino fishing vessels were also seen around the area, Tarriela said.
Both China and the Philippines claim Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs and rocks which Beijing has effectively controlled since 2012 after a weekslong standoff between vessels of the two nations. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea.
Marcos’s administration has been ramping up efforts to defend Philippine sovereignty in parts of the waters that China asserts mostly as its own, a claim refuted by an international arbitration panel in the Hague in 2016. After succeeding Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos has also strengthened the Philippines’ defense ties with the US.
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