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House pursues probe on alleged WPS ‘gentleman’s agreement’

The House of Representatives will push through with its investigation into the alleged “gentleman’s agreement” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid growing concerns about its impact on the country’s sovereignty.

In the exercise of its oversight powers, the appropriate committee will conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, to determine the adverse impact of such agreement on national interests, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said in his speech at the resumption of session.

He said the House leadership supports President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in denouncing the alleged secret “gentleman’s agreement” between former president Rodrigo R. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping concerning WPS.

In a press briefing in Davao City on April 11, Duterte denied such an agreement exists.

He said the only thing he remembered when he spoke with Xi was a status quo that armed patrols will not be seen moving in the WPS territories to avoid tension.

Romualdez said the so-called “gentleman’s agreement” on the non-supply of the BRP Sierra Madre grounded in Ayungin Shoal was “tantamount to the surrender of our country’s sovereign rights” over the country’s exclusive economic zone.”

“We believe that, in the end, upholding our territorial integrity and sovereignty in accordance with our Constitution and with international law is what matters the most,” Romualdez said.

In relation to this, Romualdez said the House would prioritize the improvement of national defense and security and economic development.

“We recognize that peace is the cornerstone of prosperity. Hence, we need to enact laws that fortify our national defense and enhance our international security posture,” he said. “These initiatives are critical in maintaining sovereignty and stability, enabling our nation to pursue development goals without the shadow of external threat.”

Romualdez said that by strengthening peace and security, Congress can create an environment conducive to economic and development activities.

“These, in turn, contribute to further stabilizing our nation by reducing poverty, creating jobs, and improving living standards, which in turn diminishes the likelihood of social unrest,” he said.

He also highlighted the results of the successful trilateral summit among US President Joe Biden, President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington, D.C. on April 11.

He said it signified a strong and united commitment of the three nations to uphold the principles of international law and ensure the freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region.

“In the volatile, uncertain, and complex environment of today, we must opt for collaborative efforts to address our common problems more swiftly and effectively,” Romualdez said. (PNA)

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