China belies claim 'gentleman's agreement' a secret

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and then-President Rodrigo Duterte toast good relations between Beijing and Manila during the former's visit to Malacanang Palace in 2018.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and then-President Rodrigo Duterte toast good relations between Beijing and Manila during the former's visit to Malacanang Palace in 2018.Photo by Mark R. CRISTINO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Thursday belied President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s claims that the so-called "gentleman's agreement" between former President Rodrigo Duterte and China was a secret.

"During the previous administration of the Philippines, our two sides reached a "gentleman's agreement" on the Ren'ai Jiao issue. The gentleman's agreement is about managing the situation on the ground, maintaining peace, and preventing conflicts. It has nothing to do with our respective sovereign positions," the embassy said in a statement.

China refers to Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, located 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, as Ren'ai Jiao.

"The agreement is no secret in that relevant departments and agencies of our two sides had worked under its guidance, effectively maintaining peace and stability at Ren'ai Jiao until early February 2023, or seven months into the incumbent Philippine administration," it added.

It emphasized that since the start of the Marcos administration, the Chinese side has "repeatedly briefed this administration on matters related to the gentleman's agreement, made representations regarding the Ren'ai Jiao issue, and remained committed to exploring ways of managing the differences through dialogue and consultation with the Philippine side."

Marcos, on various occasions, has repeatedly tagged his predecessor's agreement with China as a "secret deal."

Before departing for the US-Philippines-Japan trilateral leaders' summit last week, he made an apparent swipe against the deal made by Duterte with China.

Marcos said he was "horrified" to learn about the gentleman's agreement between the Duterte administration and China, demanding both sides to explain the rationale behind the said deal.

Earlier this week, he made a declaration that Duterte's "secret deal" with China is now being rescinded.

To recall, Duterte's former mouthpiece Harry Roque revealed that the former chief executive entered into a "gentleman's agreement" with China to maintain the status quo in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Roque said the agreement, which was not in writing, was that the Chinese Coast Guard would not stop the delivery of food and water to the country's troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre as long as the supply was limited to such.

'New model'

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy said a "new model" between the Philippines and China was made to "properly manage" the situation in Ayungin Shoal.

It noted that this was also discussed during the meetings of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea last September, which was attended by Marcos Jr.'s special envoy to China.

The embassy said the series of meetings resulted in an "internal understanding."

"A 'new model' for management of the Ren'ai Jiao situation was also agreed upon by both sides early this year after rounds of serious communications with the Philippine military," it said.

"Regrettably, only one round of resupply mission was carried out within the realm of these understandings and arrangements before they were unilaterally abandoned by the Philippine side for no good reason," it added.

It continued: "China once again urges the Philippines to honor its commitments and consensus with China, show sincerity, stop provocations, return to the right track of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible, and work with the Chinese side to properly manage the situation at Ren'ai Jiao and safeguard the hard-won peace and stability in the South China Sea."

When pressed for further details regarding the purported "new model," the embassy declined to provide any information.

DAILY TRIBUNE had sought comments from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the said "new model," but it has yet to issue a statement as of press time.

Daily Tribune