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China’s actions in WPS due to PH violation of deal by Duterte admin — Roque


Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines entered into a "gentleman’s agreement" with China which barred the country from sending repair materials to the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.

Roque said the deal was reached during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte and publicized by then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

The Philippines should only deliver food and water supplies to Filipino troops on BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal as part of the agreement with China during Duterte’s time, he added.

“This is not a secret deal. This was made public by Secretary [Alan Peter] Cayetano na walang gagalaw, walang improvement [sa BRP Sierra Madre], walang problema sa Ayungin," Roque said.

"Because of this 'gentlemen’s' agreement between the Philippines and China during the time of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, tubig at pagkain lang ang dadalhin [sa Ayungin],” he said in an interview with Politiko.

(This was made public by Sec. Cayetano that no repairs, no improvements on the ship, no problem in Ayungin... only water and food will be supplied.)

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on Wednesday said it was not aware of any “gentleman’s agreement” between the Philippines and China.

“We are not aware of any “gentleman’s agreement” between China and the Philippines referred to by former Secretary Harry Roque,” NTF WPS spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.

“The good former secretary should be one to explain to the public his statements since such an agreement, if it exists, infringes and violates our sovereignty as a nation,” he added.

According to Malaya, the task force has not seen any document from the former administration that validates or confirms the “gentleman’s agreement” under the previous administration.

“In any case, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has settled the matter that even if such exists, he has rescinded it,” Malaya said.

“Therefore, China’s repeated reference to such 'promises' serves no purpose as there is no legally-binding agreement between the two countries under the current Marcos administration,” he added.

Malaya is an undersecretary at the Departmet of the Interior and Local Government in the Duterte administration.

He pointed out that the new administration under Marcos is not bound by any such agreement as it was detrimental to the national interest.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Romeo Brawner said that changes will be applied to the resupply missions in the WPS.

The decision was made after a water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard injured three Philippine Navy personnel on board Philippine resupply vessel Unaizah May 4 on March 23.

China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Parts of the waters within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) have been renamed as the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision that Beijing has rejected.

The BRP Sierra Madre is a World War II era tank landing ship that the Philippine Navy deliberately ran aground on Ayungin Shoal (also known as Second Thomas Shoal) in 1999 to serve as a military outpost and as a symbol of Philippine sovereignty over the disputed territory.

“Ang reklamo ng China, taliwas sa naging kasunduan noong nakaraan, nagdadala sila ng repair equipment para ayusin ang BRP Sierra Madre kaya ganyan ang naging reaction ng China,” Roque said.

(China’s complaint is contrary to the earlier agreement, they are bringing equipment to repair the BRP Sierra Madre, that’s why China is reacting this way.)

Roque said China could be wrong to assume that such an agreement will be honored by the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

"Maybe China was wrong... because they enter into agreements not with personalities but with governments, eh hindi yata sumang-ayon ang Presidente Marcos, Jr. sa ganitong usapin,” Roque said.

(President Marcos Jr. might not have agreed with what was previously discussed.)

Roque believes China will not only repeat the same action but might become more aggressive if the Philippines continues to send materials to repair the decrepit BRP Sierra Madre.

“The reality is if we continue to send construction, repair materials to BRP Sierra Madre, e ganyan ang magiging reaksyon ng China. Baka lalo pa mas maging agresibo,” Roque said.

Roque later said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview that it is better to leave BRP Sierra Madre dilapidated than to push forward with repairing it at the risk of getting China’s ire.

“Hindi mo rin naman mapipilit ang China na [pumayag] magkaroon ng improvement. Hindi rin talaga sila papayag. Ano ang gusto natin? Magutom ang ating mga tao roon?” he said.

(You cannot force China to agree with us in doing improvements on BRP Sierra Madre. China won't agree to that. What do we want? To have our people starve?)

“[‘Yung] tuluyan na silang umalis dahil hindi makapagdala ng pagkain, o manatili ang BRP Sierra Madre roon dahil papayagan naman ang tubig at ang pagkain? Sa tingin ko, mas tamang polisya, na maski bulok 'yung barko roon, nananatili tayo roon, may presensiya tayo roon at may sapat na pagkain at tubig ang mga tao natin sa Sierra Madre,” Roque added.

(Do we want them to leave for good because we cannot supply them food, or we'd rather leave BRP Sierra Madre as is because China would allow delivery of food and water. I think the better policy is even though the vessel is dilapidated, we still have a presence there and our people have enough supply of food and water.) —With a report from Joviland Rita/RF/AOL, GMA Integrated News