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The Philippines has condemned the Chinese coast guard for installing what it called a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying that it prevented Filipino boats from entering and fishing in the area.

In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela said on Sunday the floating barrier was discovered by Philippine vessels during a routine maritime patrol on Friday and measured around 300 metres.

“The Philippine coast guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources strongly condemn the China coast guard’s installation of a floating barrier in the Southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc, which prevents Filipino fishing boats from entering the shoal and depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities,” the statement read.

A Chinese coastguard vessel in a disputed part of the South China Sea. (Philippine Coast Guard/Reuters) (Reuters)

Tarriela shared photos of the alleged floating barrier and claimed three Chinese coast guard boats and a Chinese maritime militia service boat had installed the floating barrier following the arrival of a Philippine government vessel in the area.

The Philippine coast guard shared footage earlier this week of vast patches of broken and bleached coral, prompting officials to accuse China of massive destruction in the area.

“The continued swarming for the indiscriminate illegal and destructive fishing activities of the Chinese maritime militia in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal may have directly caused the degradation and destruction of the marine environment in the [West Philippine Sea] features,” Tarriela said in a statement, referring to Manila’s name for parts of the South China Sea within its jurisdiction.

“The presence of crushed corals strongly suggests a potential act of dumping, possibly involving the same dead corals that were previously processed and cleaned before being returned to the seabed,” Tarriela added.

When asked about the coral destruction at a routine briefing on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry dismissed the allegations as “false and groundless.”

‘Chinese airbase’ being built on disputed island

“We advise the Philippine authorities not to utilise fabricated information to stage a political farce,” spokesperson Mao Ning said.

According to Filipino fishermen, Chinese vessels “usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area,” the statement said.

China has not yet publicly commented.

CNN is seeking a response from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bajo de Masinloc, also known as the Scarborough Shoal, is a small but strategic reef and fertile fishing ground 200km west of the Philippine island of Luzon.

The shoal, which China calls Huangyandao, is one of a number of disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which is home to various territorial disputes.

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