Roque: PH may lose Ayungin if it continues to show hardline stance 

Roque: PH may lose Ayungin if it continues to impose hardline stance

/ 01:19 PM April 01, 2024

The current administration’s “hardline” tactics versus Beijing will only result in the Philippines' losing Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, former Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque cautioned on Monday. 

Atty. Harry Roque, former presidential spokesperson. INQUIRER file photo / DEXTER CABALZA

MANILA, Philippines — The current administration’s “hardline” tactics versus Beijing will only result in the Philippines’ losing Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, former Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque cautioned on Monday.

In a phone interview with, Roque explained that former president Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal agreement with China to maintain the “status quo” in Ayungin Shoal is a better foreign policy in terms of maintaining “relative peace” and the Philippines’ presence in the area.


This is in comparison to incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s strong approach against Beijing since his election in 2022.


READ: Ex-President Duterte, China had deal to keep WPS status quo – Roque 

“The issue is, which is the better foreign policy? The one where we have relative peace or now? All it (the agreement) entails is avoiding situations that would result in the current situation,” Roque said.

Duterte’s agreement with Beijing, according to the former spokesperson, constitutes an arrangement wherein China would allow the delivery of food and water to troops stationed in the Philippines’ outpost in Ayungin Shoal — the grounded ship BRP Sierra Madre.

But more recently, Chinese naval vessels have repeatedly used “dangerous” maneuvers including the use of water cannon on Filipino vessels in a resupply mission to troops stationed at the grounded ship.

“We have to learn from history. Any hardline [stand] against China will lead to our loss of possession of a disputed area,” Roque also said.


He was pertaining to the Aquino administration’s alleged loss of control over Scarborough Shoal, another area within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but has since been reportedly controlled by China.

“My fearless prediction is that if BBM (President Marcos) continues in his current direction, which he calls his ‘countermeasures,’ then we will completely lose troops in the BRP Sierra Madre because China will block all deliveries,” Roque added.

Demilitarization of Ayungin Shoal?

As for whether China has the authority to block the access of Filipino resupply vessels to BRP Sierra Madre, considering the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which recognized Ayungin as part of the Philippines’ EEZ, the former spokesperson explained that the ruling does not cover military situations.

Prior to the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, the Philippines complained about similar blocking maneuvers by Chinese troops against Filipino resupply vessels to the BRP Sierra Madre.

However, it noted that China’s activities were military in nature and excluded them from the jurisdiction of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

READ: Carpio: Duterte gave up PH right over Ayungin in an agreement w/ China  

“In the Tribunal’s view, this represents a quintessentially military situation, involving the military forces of one side and a combination of military and paramilitary forces on the other, arrayed in opposition to one another,” Paragraph 1161 of the ruling reads.

“As these facts fall well within the exception, the Tribunal does not consider it necessary to explore the outer bounds of what would or would not constitute military activities for the purposes of Article 298,” it added.

Roque, a lawyer, then said that the Philippines should simply demilitarize Ayungin Shoal and turn it into a shelter for the area’s fisherfolk so that the Shoal can “function as an EEZ.”

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Former President Duterte’s so-called “gentleman’s agreement” has been criticized for supposedly surrendering the archipelagic country’s sovereign rights in Ayungin Shoal to China.

Amid the rally of his predecessor’s allies against his foreign policy, Marcos previously said in a strongly-worded statement that the Philippines would implement unspecified proportionate “countermeasures” against China’s aggressive actions against Filipino vessels in the disputed waters.

TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, Beijing, Harry Roque, Philippines

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