MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday said all 10 of the navigational buoys it installed in areas of the West Philippine Sea were still there, amid a report from Chinese media that these were removed.
A Chinese online news outfit had reported that “all” the navigational buoys in the West Philippine Sea were “fished out” by Chinese fishermen who were guarded by their Coast Guards.
But PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Jay Tarriela said all of their 10 buoys were still in the West Philippine Sea.
"The PCG's 10 buoys, which were dropped in the West Philippines Sea, remain in their designated locations," he said in a text message.
Earlier in the day, PCG Spokesperson Armand Balilo told ABS-CBN News in an interview they were still verifying the state of the 2 buoys in Balagtas Reef (Irving Reef) and Julian Felipe Reef (Whitson Reef) since these are far from their nearest substation in Palawan.
He said when these buoys get removed from the West Philippine Sea, they would have to document it and inform the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea and the Department of Foreign Affairs for appropriate action.
Navigational buoys serve as the country’s sovereign markers in the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea, said Balilo.
It also shows, he said, that the Philippines is the coastal administrator of that territory.
“It’s an aid to navigation…. Mahalagang nilagay natin ito doon dahil unang-una, malaking tulong ito sa mga mandaragat, sa mga marino, fishermen para magkaroon sila ng guide sa lugar, hindi sila mapahamak,” he said.
The PCG installed these in mid-May. China, in response, placed 3 beacons close to Balagtas Reef, Julian Felipe Reef, and Gaven Reef of the Spratly islands, which consists of many islets, reef banks and shoals, Reuters reported.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, ignoring an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
The Philippines recently accused China of causing a near-crash with a coast guard ship and pointing a military-grade laser at another vessel.