Southeast Asia

Philippines Fury Over ‘Floating Barrier’ in South China Sea


The Philippines has reacted furiously to what it says is a “floating barrier” installed by China’s coast guard in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

Manila said the barrier was preventing Filipinos from entering and fishing in the area, and strongly condemned the move in the increasingly tense region.

The Philippines coast guard and its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources posted about the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal, on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday.


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Commodore Jay Tarriela, a coast guard spokesperson, said it was blocking fishermen from the shoal and “depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities”.

“The [Philippine Coast Guard] will continue to… uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains,” he went on.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

China claims 90% of the South China Sea, overlapping with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Beijing seized the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and forced fishermen from the Philippines to travel further for smaller catches.

Beijing allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the uninhabited shoal when bilateral relations were improving markedly under then-President Rodrigo Duterte. But tension has mounted again since his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, took office last year.


Routine Patrol Discovers Barrier

Philippine coast guard and fisheries bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, estimated at 300m (1,000ft) long, on a routine patrol on Friday near the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, Tarriela said.

Three Chinese coast guard rigid-hull inflatable boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat installed the barrier when the Philippine vessel arrived, he said.

Filipino fishermen say China typically installs such barriers when they monitor a large number of fishermen in the area, Tarriela said.

The Chinese boats issued 15 radio challenges and accused the Philippine ship and fishermen of violating international and China’s laws, before moving away “upon realising the presence of media personnel onboard the [Filipino] vessel”, he said.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


Read more:

Philippines Warns Beijing Over South China Sea Boats ‘Swarm’

US Says India Could Join Navy Patrols in South China Sea

Manila, Beijing Vow to Talk Amid South China Sea Tensions

Radios Beam China-Philippines Tension Over South China Sea



Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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