A man dives and cuts off a 300-meter-long floating barrier installed by China at the southern entrance of Bajo de Masinloc near Zambales in a video released by the Philippine Coast Guard on Sept. 26, 2023. (Courtesy of PCG)

Upon the instruction of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has removed the floating barrier installed by China in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough or Panatag Shoal) near Zambales, it was revealed on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

National Task Force for West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) Chairman and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año instructed the PCG to execute a "special operation" to remove the floating barrier which obstructed the southeast entrance of Bajo de Masinloc and prevented Filipino fishermen from entering the shoal.

"The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal," PCG spokesperson for West Philippine Sea (WPS) Commodore Jay Tarriela said.

"The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law.  It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk in BDM, which is an integral part of the Philippine national territory," he added.

In a 38-second long video shared by the PCG on social media, it featured a man, supposedly a Filipino coast guardian, holding a knife as he dived and cut off the 300-meter-long floating barrier.

Tarriela reiterated that the 2016 Arbitral Award affirmed that Bajo de Masinloc is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. 

"Thus, any obstruction hindering the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk in the shoal violates the international law.  It also infringes on the Philippines' sovereignty over BDM," he emphasized.

The barrier was discovered by PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) personnel while they were conducting routine maritime patrol onboard BRP Datu Bankaw last Sept. 22.

The barrier was installed by three rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) from the China Coast Guard (CCG) and a Chinese maritime militia (CMM) service boat.

Tarriela said the removal of the barrier was part of the PCG's efforts to uphold international law to safeguard the welfare of Filipino fisherfolk and protect the rights of the country in its territorial waters.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2023/9/25/pcg-removes-floating-barrier-in-bajo-de-masinloc)