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Philippine Coast Guard divers cut the Chinese buoy chain

Photo: - / AFP

The Philippine Coast Guard says it has removed the Chinese-installed "floating barrier" in a disputed region in the South China Sea. The barrier posed a danger to shipping, a clear violation of international law," Jay Tarriela, spokesman for the coast guard of the island nation, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday evening. It also hindered the work of Filipino fishermen. Tarriela posted a video showing divers cutting ropes with knives in the sea.

The Philippine authorities had announced on Sunday that China had erected an approximately 300-meter-long chain of buoys about 230 kilometers west of the Philippine northwest coast. Their removal is in accordance with international law, the spokesman said.

Just a few hours earlier, Beijing had once again emphasized its claim to the area. The Huangyan Island, as the otherwise called Scarborough Reef area in China is called, belongs legally to the territory of the People's Republic, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin in Beijing. A ship from the Philippine Department of Fisheries and Water Resources tried to enter the atoll last Friday without China's permission. China's authorities had intercepted the boat in accordance with the law, he explained.

The barrier had been discovered during a routine patrol of the Philippines in the southeastern part of the Scarborough Reef, which is also called Bajo de Masinloc in the Southeast Asian country, and had caused outrage in Manila. On Monday morning, National Security Advisor Eduardo Año announced that all necessary measures would be taken to remove the barrier and thus "protect the rights of our fishermen in the region".

Both China and the Philippines have claims to the Scarborough Reef. It was the focus of a military incident between the two countries in 2012, whereupon Beijing unceremoniously occupied the reef. Although a court ruled in 2016 that China's historical rights to the territory were void, Beijing does not recognize the ruling.