Marcos insists PH not looking for trouble: Fight for maritime territories continues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines did not want to increase tension with China by removing its controversial floating barrier, and that the country was just defending its territory.

“In terms of taking down the barrier, I don’t see what else we could do,” Marcos, speaking for the first time about the issue, said Friday on the sidelines of an event in Surigao del Norte.

Earlier this week, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it removed the barrier installed at the entrance to the lagoon at Scarborough Shoal, which is part of the country's exclusive economic zone and a traditional fishing ground. Authorities and lawmakers condemned the structure.

READ: PCG removes China-installed floating barrier from Bajo De Masinloc

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned the country against making “provocation” or “stir[ring] up trouble.” China even dismissed the Philippines' action as “nothing more than self-amusement.”

But Marcos said the Philippines was trying to avoid any conflict.

“Hindi tayo naghahanap ng gulo. Basta ang gagawin natin, patuloy nating ipagtatanggol ang Pilipinas, ang maritime territory ng Pilipinas, ang mga karapatan ng mga fishermen natin na mangisda doon sa mga areas kung saan sila nangigisda daang-daang taon na,” the chief executive said.

[Translation: We are not looking for trouble. What we’re going to do is we will continue to defend the Philippines, the maritime territory of the Philippines, and the rights of our fishermen to make a living in the areas where they have been fishing for hundreds of years.]

Marcos added that after the PCG got rid of the barrier, local fishermen were able to catch over 160 tons of fish in just one day.

Later that day, the PCG presented to the media the anchor of the barrier installed by China.

PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said this proved that the country got rid of the structure after the China Coast Guard claimed that Filipinos fabricated the act.

“And the videos and the photos that we show the world is already a clear proof that we are not fabricating this story,” he added.

But despite the removal of the barrier, Tarriela said it remains a struggle for Filipino fishermen to enter the lagoon.

He reported that during a maritime domain awareness flight on Thursday over Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines spotted Chinese vessels, including maritime militia, guarding the lagoon.

The PCG also reported that Beijing had six radio challenges against Philippine authorities during the flight.

While Tarriela said limited resources would prevent the PCG from constant presence at the disputed shoal, he vowed the agency would increase presence in the area to assist Filipino fishermen.