Asia Pacific Philippines removes Chinese barrier at disputed shoal in ‘special operation’
The Philippines has executed a “special operation” to remove a floating barrier installed by China at the Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing patch in the South China Sea. The move could escalate tensions in the region, which has been marked by disputes over sovereignty and fishing rights. The Philippines expressed outrage over the barrier, which it deemed a violation of international law and hindrance to navigation and fishing activities. China, however, defended its actions as “necessary measures” in response to a Philippine vessel intruding into its waters. These developments come at a time when the Philippines is strengthening military ties with the United States, a move that has angered Beijing.
Background and Analysis
The Scarborough Shoal, located 200 km from the Philippines, has been a point of contention between China and the Philippines for years. China seized the shoal in 2012 and has since maintained a constant presence of coastguard and fishing trawlers there. Under the previous pro-China administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, both Chinese and Filipino fishermen were able to peacefully coexist in the area since 2017. However, with Duterte’s term over, the current Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has taken a stronger stance against China’s actions.
Legal and Sovereignty Issues
The issue of control over the shoal is highly sensitive for China, as it formed part of a case filed by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. In 2016, the court ruled that China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea had no legal basis under international law. While the ruling did not specifically address sovereignty over the shoal, it declared that China’s previous blockades were unlawful and recognized the shoal as a traditional fishing site for several countries.
China, however, has refused to acknowledge the court’s ruling and maintains that the shoal is its inherent territory. This disagreement over sovereignty and the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the area have fueled tensions between the two countries, leading to the recent incident with the floating barrier.
Regional Stability and International Concerns
The removal of the barrier at the Scarborough Shoal has raised concerns about regional stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan, in particular, has urged calm and stressed the importance of the South China Sea to regional stability. China’s actions, coupled with the Philippines‘ strengthening of military ties with the United States, have heightened tensions and the potential for further disputes.
The international community has closely monitored the situation in the South China Sea, given its strategic importance as a major trade route and its abundance of natural resources. The United States has repeatedly expressed its commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation in the region and has conducted freedom of navigation operations near disputed islands. Other countries, such as Australia, have also signaled their support for rules-based approaches to resolving disputes in the South China Sea.
Editorial and Advice
The recent removal of the Chinese barrier at the Scarborough Shoal highlights the ongoing tensions and disputes in the South China Sea. It serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by countries in the region as they navigate complex geopolitical dynamics and assert their respective claims.
The Philippine government’s decision to take action and remove the floating barrier is a clear indication of its determination to protect its sovereignty and the livelihood of its fisherfolk. However, as tensions continue to escalate, the Philippines should carefully consider its approach to ensure that actions taken do not inadvertently lead to further conflict.
It is imperative for the international community to closely monitor the situation in the South China Sea and support efforts to resolve disputes through peaceful means and adherence to international law. Diplomatic channels should be utilized to engage with all parties involved and find a mutually acceptable resolution that upholds the rights and interests of all stakeholders.
Regional cooperation and dialogue are essential in achieving long-term stability in the South China Sea. Countries in the region should work together to establish mechanisms for managing disputes, promoting maritime security, and ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources. Confidence-building measures and joint efforts to address common challenges can help build trust and reduce tensions among neighboring countries.
The South China Sea disputes underscore the need for a rules-based order in the region. Adherence to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is crucial in maintaining peace, stability, and the freedom of navigation. All parties involved should respect and abide by international legal frameworks and mechanisms for resolving disputes.
The removal of the Chinese barrier at the Scarborough Shoal highlights the complex and sensitive nature of the disputes in the South China Sea. It is incumbent upon all parties involved, both regional countries and the international community, to work towards peaceful resolutions, respect for international law, and the preservation of regional stability. Only through dialogue, cooperation, and adherence to established norms can long-term solutions be found for the benefit of all stakeholders in the South China Sea.
<< photo by Alina Skazka >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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