Teodoro seeks accountability in 'gentlemen’s agreement' on

Teodoro seeks accountability in ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ on

By: - Reporter /
/ 11:23 AM April 02, 2024

Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. delivers his speech at the 22nd General Assembly of the Veterans Confederation of ASEAN Countries 2023 (VECONAC 2023) at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. /Ryan Leagogo

Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. delivers his speech at the 22nd General Assembly of the Veterans Confederation of ASEAN Countries 2023 (VECONAC 2023) at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. ( file photo/RYAN LEAGOGO)

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Tuesday stressed the importance of accountability in view of the supposed “gentleman’s agreement” with China regarding the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Teodoro, however, said the public should not be distracted on the real issue, which is China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

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“While we realize that accountability is important in the issue on whether or not a so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was forged with China regarding the BRP Sierra Madre and Ayungin Shoal, we, Filipinos, must not lose sight of the fact that the main threat to our rights in the (West Philippine Sea) is the Chinese government’s illegal activities,” Teodoro said in a statement.

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“Let us not fall into the trap set by Chinese propaganda of refocusing the debate on a so-called promise, while deflecting attention away from China’s government, thereby freeing and allowing them to continue with their illegal activities in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” he added.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte made a verbal agreement with China that both sides would maintain “status quo” in the West Philippine Sea, according to his former spokesperson Harry Roque.

READ: NSC: ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ on West PH Sea violates PH sovereignty

Roque, however, clarified that Duterte made no specific agreement with regards to the low-tide elevation where the World War II Navy outpost is situated.

READ: Duterte-China deal covers entire not just Ayungin – Roque

China repeatedly asserted that the Philippines supposedly promised to tow away the BRP Sierra Madre, which has been grounded in the sandbank since 1999.

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Philippine government denied that such an agreement existed.

Former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have categorically refuted entering into such an accord with the Chinese government.

National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya also said the West Philippine Sea task force has not seen any document from the Duterte administration which validates or confirms the existence of this agreement and the terms of such a commitment.

Duterte pivoted to China but President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reversed this move.

Marcos green lighted joint patrols and military exercises with the United States in the West Philippine Sea and allowed Washington access to four more Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The resupply activity of BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy outpost grounded in the sandbank since 1999 or during former Estrada’s time, becomes the flashpoint of tension between Manila and Beijing.

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Beijing asserts sovereignty in the entire South China Sea, including most of the West Philippine Sea, even if such a claim has been effectively invalidated by a July 2016 international tribunal ruling that stemmed from a case filed by Manila in 2013.

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