PCG official: Removal of floating barrier closest PH vessel ever got since China took over Bajo de Masinloc

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — Despite China's belittling, a Philippine Coast Guard official (PCG) said Manila should celebrate its small victories in its operation to remove Beijing's floating barrier in Bajo de Masinloc as this was the closest a Philippine vessel reached that area after a long time.

On Sept. 25, the PCG said it removed the floating barrier illegally installed by China at the southeast entrance of Bajo De Masinloc. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin described it as "nothing more than self-amusement."

Also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, the area is part of the municipality of Masinloc in Zambales. It is located 124 nautical miles (NM) west of the province and falls within the Philippines' 200 NM exclusive economic zone.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Jay Tarriela said it has been 11 years since China took over the area, particularly the lagoon after the standoff in 2012. This has prevented Filipino fishermen from entering the area to fish or take shelter.

"This is the first time the Philippine government vessel was able to come near as 300 meters in Bajo de Masinloc," he noted.

Prior to the operation, Tarriela said Philippine vessels could only come as close as 7 to 8 nautical miles.

The PCG official added that the Philippines does not have to prove it removed the floating barrier. While he expects the incident to happen again, Tarriela said authorities are ready to conduct the same operation.

Tarriela also said the national government has a long-term goal for Bajo de Masinloc, but did not elaborate.