In the disputed South China Sea, 220 kilometers from the Philippines, there is a gigantic 150 square kilometer atoll full of sandbanks, a chain of reefs and triangular-shaped rocks. It is called Scarborough Shoal and it is a privileged fishing area where desired marine resources abound.
From Manila they claim it as part of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But in China they say that it is theirs because they have writings from the 13th century that indicate that that place was part of their domains. What Beijing does not explain when they express their claim is that the atoll is very close to the considered gateway to the Pacific, the Bashi Channel, which is why we are talking about an important geopolitical enclave.
Last weekend, people in the Philippines protested because the Chinese coast guard had installed a floating barrier at Scarborough Shoal to block the entry of Filipino fishing boats. Just two days later, the Philippine coast guard has removed the barrier, which has further strained the old dispute with Beijing over the disputed waters.
“The barrier represented a danger to navigation and a clear violation of international law. It also hinders fishing and the subsistence activities of Filipino fishermen,” Philippine authorities said in a statement. It was President Ferdinand Marcos Jr himself, increasingly closer to Washington, who gave the order to remove a barrier formed with buoys and measuring more than 300 meters.
In Beijing they defended the placement of the barrier, accusing Manila of worsening tensions by trying to deploy one of its ships a few days ago into the lagoon in the atoll. Chinese military militias had already prevented Filipino fishermen from entering the site after they took control of the bank in a maritime confrontation in 2012. That led Manila to denounce Chinese authorities before an international tribunal over its territorial claims in the Sea. of South China, a rich fishing ground believed to contain vast reserves of oil and gas.