Lorenzana: China envoy first mentioned Ayungin deal in 2021

China envoy first mentioned Ayungin Shoal deal in 2021—Lorenzana

'Huang also insisted on deal to pull BRP Sierra Madre away'
/ 01:57 PM May 21, 2024

Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on West Philippine Sea

Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian has been mentioning about a gentleman’s agreement on the Ayungin Shoal since 2021, near the time of the first water cannon incidents in the area, according to former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Lorenzana said this on Monday during the joint hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense and Security and the Committee on the West Philippine Sea, which was tackling an alleged gentleman’s deal between former President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Lorenzana headed the Department of National Defense (DND) when Duterte was president from 2016 to 2022.  According to Lorenzana, he remembers very well the first time Huang mentioned it to him — in light of a Philippine resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre being water cannoned in November 2021.


READ: House probe of Duterte-China ‘gentleman’s agreement’ begins

“Now, with the gentleman’s agreement, this came out only when Ambassador Huang started talking about this agreement later on, I think, early last year, about our agreement.  But he mentioned this to me during the first water cannon incident in Ayungin Shoal in November of 2021,” he said in his opening statement.

“I remember very well because I was talking to him that night about, he was complaining about the resupply and strengthening of the Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.  And while we were talking that night, they were already bombarding our supply ship with water cannons.  So I wrote to him the following day and protested the action,” he added.

According to Lorenzana, Huang also claimed that there was a deal to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, with Huang saying that he was a junior officer when BRP Sierra Madre ran aground in 1990.

After BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately placed in the shoal, the Navy ship has been turned into an outpost of the Philippine military on the West Philippine Sea.

“And from then on, he claimed that there was this agreement between the embassy of China and officials of the government, that when we grounded that ship there in Ayungin, that we promised to pull it out. In fact, he said, they offered to help us, but I think supposedly the government refused because we could do it on our own,” Lorenzana said.


“And I asked him, how sure are you that what you’re talking (about) is true?  And he said, because I was here.  Ambassador Huang said that he was here as a junior staff in 1999 when that Sierra Madre incident happened. And so I said, I cannot find somebody from the retired ranks of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to corroborate what he was saying. So we leave it at that,” he added.

READ: China insists on PH vow to tow grounded ship 

Lorenzana said he also told Huang that China is crazy if it thinks that BRP Sierra Madre, which has been decaying, can still be repaired.

“But they were protesting that we are actually trying to strengthen the Sierra Madre ship. What I told him was, ‘you’re crazy if you think that we are going to repair that ship, because it’s already corroded and about to collapse’,” he said.

“What we are trying to do is to improve the living conditions, the barracks of the detachment in Sierra Madre, composed of about 15 people — 14 enlisted personnel and one officer,” he added.

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

Duterte’s former presidential spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque, first revealed a gentleman’s agreement, supposedly between Duterte and Xi, to maintain the current situation in the disputed region.

Roque mentioned this when asked why China has been so aggressive when Philippine vessels, under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., have tried to do resupply missions in the Ayungin Shoal.

READ: Medialdea: Ayungin status quo deal started in 2013 under Gazmin 

Concerns regarding the agreement prompted the two panels to launch a probe on the issue.  Earlier, during the same hearing, former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea clarified that there was no gentleman’s agreement made during the two Duterte-Xi meetings that he attended.

Medialdea, executive secretary during Duterte’s term, said there were eight meetings between the two leaders from 2016 to 2018.  He also said that the status quo commitment on Ayungin Shoal — that only food and water would be delivered to troops stationed there — started in 2013 under former Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

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Gazmin was Defense secretary of former President Benigno Aquino III, who was in office from 2010 to 2016.

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TAGS: Delfin Lorenzana, West Philippine Sea

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