House to consider calls to probe Duterte-China ‘gentleman’s deal'

Dalipe: House to consider calls to probe Duterte-China ‘gentleman’s deal’

/ 12:55 PM April 16, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives would consider appeals for a congressional probe into the gentleman’s agreement between former president Rodrigo Duterte and China regarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said on Tuesday.

Dalipe in a statement said that they will consider the request of Assistant Majority Leader and Zambales 1st District Rep. Jay Khonghun, who said over the weekend that the House should look into the deal due to concerns about its legality.

The deal between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping was to maintain the status quo over WPS, which means no additional construction would be done, including on BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy vessel that was deliberately run aground Ayungin Shoal.


“In response to the request of our colleagues led by Assistant Majority Leader Jay Khonghun, the House of Representatives will consider the call to probe the supposed gentleman’s agreement when Congress resumes its regular sessions next week,” said Dalipe, who also heads the House committee on rules which schedules hearings and the agenda for the session.


Dalipe, though, agrees with Khonghun about the need for an investigation, which will be aimed at ensuring transparency in the country’s foreign policy.

“Protecting our national territory and marine resources are of utmost importance.  The inquiry is aimed at guaranteeing transparency and protecting the national interests,” he said.

“The House of Representatives is committed to conducting a comprehensive and fair inquiry to clarify this critical national issue,” he added.

Khonghun last Saturday said it is crucial to identify details of the agreement and at the same time ensure accountability, should the deal be deemed disadvantageous to the Philippines.

“It’s crucial to ascertain the truth if indeed the Duterte administration struck such a deal with China,” Khonghun, a member of the House’s youth movement, said.  “This isn’t just about conflicting narratives; it’s about upholding integrity and accountability.”

“We cannot allow uncertainty to cloud our national interests. The Filipino people deserve clarity and honesty from our leaders,” he added.  “As lawmakers, it is our duty to seek out the truth and hold accountable those responsible for any wrongdoing.”


READ: Majority, minority solons agree: House must probe Duterte-China deal

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

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

However, Roque’s claim was countered by another former presidential spokesperson, lawyer Salvador Panelo, who said that Duterte did not enter into such an agreement with China.

Eventually, Duterte, as well as China, admitted that such an agreement existed.

READ: Ex-president Duterte, China confirm pact not to repair PH outpost

The agreement has raised concerns among officials in the country, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, who asked Duterte what his administration compromised in the deal.

Marcos also said in a press briefing in Washington during his official visit to the United States that he prefers to call the agreement a secret deal because it was deliberately hidden from the public.

According to Marcos, Duterte and officials who served during his term should clarify matters because it would explain why Chinese officials have been irritated with the Philippines’ actions over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In the second year of President Marcos’ term, China has become increasingly aggressive in the WPS, particularly when the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assists in resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal, where Filipino military troops are stationed.

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

However, China believes the Philippines is illegally occupying the shoal by deliberately running BRP Sierra Madre on it in 1999.  Roque said these aggressive actions may be brought by the Marcos administration not adhering to the gentleman’s agreement.

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

TAGS: China, Duterte, gentleman's agreement

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