Roque bares Duterte, China agreement to respect status quo in WPS

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that former President Rodrigo Duterte had a verbal agreement with the Chinese government that both countries would respect the status quo in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a television interview, Roque said this means that there would be no improvements made as far as the WPS is concerned, including the BRP Sierra Madre, which was deliberately grounded in Ayungin Shoal by the Philippine government in 1991 to signify its sovereignty and territorial rights in the area amid China’s claims.

“Ito’y oral (agreement) sa panahon ni Presidente Duterte na ang parehong panig, ang Tsina at Pilipinas ay rerespetuhin ang status quo, ibig sabihin kung ano ‘yung naroroon na walang dagdag, walang bawas,” he said.

“Doon sa usapin na 'yon, lumabas na kaya nila winater cannon ay dahil sa kasunduan ng status ko, hindi dapat magpadala ng mga materyales for repair ng BRP Sierra Madre,” he added.

Roque said under the agreement, the Philippines would only be allowed to bring food and water.

However, Roque clarified that there was no agreement between Duterte and the Chinese government that the BRP Sierra Madre would be removed from Ayungin Shoal.

Meanwhile, in a statement, National Security Council assistant director general Jonathan Malaya said the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is not aware of the “gentleman’s agreement” between China and the former administration of Duterte.

He maintained that such an agreement “infringes on and violates our sovereignty as a nation.”

Malaya said that if such an agreement exists, it is not legally binding by its very nature, noting that not a single document from the former administration validates or confirms its existence and the terms of such 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 has settled the matter that even if such exists, he has rescinded it. Therefore, China’s repeated reference to such ‘promises’ serves no purpose as there is no legally binding agreement between the two countries under the Marcos, Jr. administration,” he said.

“Therefore, the Marcos, Jr. administration is not bound by any such agreement because it is detrimental to the national interest,” he added.

Malaya maintained that the Philippines has not violated the Declaration of Conduct in the WPS noting that it acted with self-restraint in the conduct of activities and has not acted to complicate or escalate disputes that affect peace and stability.

“It is China that has been continually violating the DOC by interfering with a routine resupply mission to a long-standing PH outpost in the West PH Sea by water-cannoning, dangerous maneuvers, and other aggressive and illegal actions which have increased tensions in the WPS,” he added.

On Saturday, March 23, the Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia acted recklessly and dangerously against Philippine Coast Guard vessels and Unaizah May 4 (UM4) using water cannons which caused severe damage to the vessel and injuries to three Navy personnel onboard.

This was just one but the most harmful out of the many harassments staged by China against the Philippines during the conduct of rotation and resupply mission (RoRe) for BRP Sierra Madre.

China has received condemnation from other nations due to the incident.

It, however, maintained that the Philippine vessels were illegally entering its territory, bringing construction materials.

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