Marcos to Duterte: Explain agreement with China on West Philippine Sea

Marcos to Duterte: Explain agreement with China on West Philippine Sea

FILE PHOTO: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets with his predecessor former President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, August 2023. Photo from PCO

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is urging former president Rodrigo Duterte to clarify what pact he supposedly entered into with China and what he purportedly compromised in that agreement.

During a briefing with the Philippine media delegation here on Friday afternoon, Marcos was asked about the so-called Duterte-China gentleman’s agreement, or what the President said he prefers to call a “secret deal” because he thinks there was a “clandestine discussion” and a deliberate effort to hide it from the public.

According to Marcos, Duterte and his administration’s officials should explain matters because it would provide the reason why friends from China have been irritated with the Philippines’ actions over the West Philippine Sea.

“Maliwanag para sa akin, may tinago, may usapan sila na tinago nila sa taumbayan (It’s clear to me, something was hidden, they had a deal that they hid from the people). Number one,” he said.

“Now we need to know, what did you agree to? What did you compromise? Ano ‘yong pinamigay ninyo, bakit nagagalit ang kaibigan natin sa China na hindi kami sumusunod (What did you give, why is our friend in China angry that we are not obeying)?” Marcos asked.

READ: ‘Horrified’ Marcos summons Chinese envoy over ‘secret pact’

“Ano ‘yong dapat naming gawin, ano’ng laman ng secret agreement na ‘yan? At pangatlo bakit secret?  ‘Pagka masagot natin ‘yang tatlong ‘yan magiging mas maliwanag ‘yong issue,” he added.

(What is it that we need to do?  What does that secret agreement contain? And third, why is it a secret?  When we have answers to these three, the issues would be clearer.)

Marcos also wondered why his predecessor Duterte, whom he described as a veteran lawyer, would allow deals to be done without proper documentation – fanning the belief that the alleged agreement was meant to be confidential.

“Hindi ko nga maintindihan. Very experienced lawyer si president Duterte, eh ang abugado lahat gusto nila nakasulat lahat ‘yan eh. Bakit walang nakasulat na kahit isang papel? Bakit walang video, bakit walang announcement? Nothing,” Marcos said.

(I really cannot understand. President Duterte is a very experienced lawyer, and a lawyer would want transactions written. Why is it not written even on a sheet of paper? Why no video, why no announcement? Nothing.)

“Bakit hindi nila sinabi kung gusto nilang i-sikreto, bakit hindi nila sinabi sa amin no’ng kami’y pumasok? Sabihin, meron kaming usapan, dapat sundan natin, and for whatever reason, ‘wag mong sasabihin sa taumbayan.”

(Why did they not say they want to keep it a secret, why did they not tell us when we came it? Say, we have an agreement, we must follow it, and for whatever reason, do not tell the people.)

READ: US, Japan, PH to China: Stop ‘coercive use’ of coast guard in South China Sea

“And that’s my third question, why is it secret? Why is it secret? Because don’t tell me that it was just an oversight na hindi nasulat (that it was not written). Eh deliberate ‘yong hindi sinulat, deliberate ‘yon (But it was deliberately done), it was decided in the last administration that we will not record this, it was decided in the last administration we will not announce it to the Filipino people, therefore it is a secret agreement,” he added.

Last March 27, Duterte’s former presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, confirmed to reporters that Duterte and China had a deal to maintain the status quo in the West Philippine Sea – which means both the Philippines and China would refrain from constructing and repairing installations in the area.

Roque, however, admitted that the agreement was non-binding and could not apply during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s tenure.

But Roque’s statements was countered by another former spokesperson of Duterte, Salvador Panelo, who said the ex-president did not enter into such a pact with China.

On Thursday night, Duterte denied conceding anything to China. He and China also confirmed a pact not to repair the Philippines’ outpost in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos urged members of the media to ask Duterte and his administration’s officials about details of the controversial agreement so that the current administration would not be kept in the dark.

“So you should, can you please, I ask members of all our media, can you go to the former officials in the Duterte administration, and ask them, who were the cabinet secretaries who know about this? What was the process that happened, how it happened, because to me, in my mind, there really is a secret, clandestine discussion,” he noted.

In the second year of President Marcos’ term, China has become increasingly aggressive in the West Philippine Sea.

China Coast Guard committed various hostile actions against Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Filipino-manned ships involved in resupply missions to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, where troops are stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy ship moored on the shoal since 1999.

Ayungin Shoal, which sits around 315 kilometers from the tip of Palawan, is well within the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

However, China has been insisting that the Philippines is illegally occupying the shoal. Roque previously said these aggressive actions of China may be due to the Marcos administration’s disobedience to the alleged gentleman’s agreement between Duterte and Beijing.

China also insisted that a former Philippine president promised to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, but President Marcos said he is not aware of such a deal.