House probe sought on ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with China

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
House probe sought on �gentleman�s agreement� with China
Rep. Jefferson Khonghun of Zambales’ first district is calling for a congressional inquiry into the matter, expressing grave concerns over the potential compromise of the Philippines’ territory and sovereignty.
US Navy / File

MANILA, Philippines — An administration lawmaker is urging the House of Representatives to conduct a probe into the reported gentleman’s agreement on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) between former president Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Rep. Jefferson Khonghun of Zambales’ first district is calling for a congressional inquiry into the matter, expressing grave concerns over the potential compromise of the Philippines’ territory and sovereignty.

“The integrity of our nation’s sovereignty cannot be subjected to clandestine agreements that undermine the rights of the Filipino people,” said Khonghun, a member of the so-called “Young Guns” group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Khonghun’s first district in Zambales includes the coastal areas of the West Philippine Sea.

This move comes after President Marcos said he was “horrified” that a “secret agreement” might have compromised the country’s territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights in the WPS.

The alleged agreement is widely believed to have given China leverage to shift blame onto the Philippines amid escalating tensions in the WPS.

According to Khonghun, his alignment with the President’s position reflects a broader trend among legislators, highlighting the need for transparency and accountability in matters of national sovereignty and security.

“It is imperative that we shed light on any agreements or arrangements that could potentially compromise our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Khonghun pointed out.

“The Filipino people deserve to know the truth and hold accountable those responsible for any actions that may jeopardize our national interests,” he said.

China ‘thankful’ for deals

The Chinese embassy, meanwhile, said yesterday it was thankful for previous agreements struck with the Philippine government, as it reiterated its call for Manila to abide by the commitments.

“Thanks to the understandings and agreements reached by the two sides, the overall peace and stability at Ayungin Shoal was maintained in the past few years,” the embassy said in a statement.

It again urged the Philippines to “value and honor their commitments, abide by the consensus,” but again without providing details on who made the supposed deal and where and when it was made.

Marcos has said he would seek clarification about the matter from the Chinese ambassador in Manila.

150 diplomatic protests filed vs China

The Philippines has filed a total of 150 diplomatic protests against China under the Marcos administration from July 1, 2022, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said this includes 17 protests against China’s illegal presence and actions in the West Philippine Sea that were lodged this year and as of April 9.

The Philippines summoned on March 25 the Chinese embassy’s charge d’affaires to protest the China Coast Guard (CCG)’s “aggressive actions” around Ayungin Shoal, which left four Filipino soldiers injured and a supply vessel severely damaged.

The DFA conveyed the Philippines’ strong protest against the aggressive actions undertaken by the CCG and Chinese maritime militia against the rotation and resupply mission undertaken by the Philippines in Ayungin Shoal on March 23.

China’s violent water cannon attack on a Philippine vessel and dangerous actions in the South China Sea sparked international condemnation.

The Philippines has made sincere efforts to implement the instruction of President Marcos and President Xi to lower tensions but “China’s aggressive actions call into question its sincerity in lowering the tensions and promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

Even as the Philippines continues to engage China in dialogue and diplomacy at the bilateral and multilateral levels, the DFA said China’s aggressive actions contradict and put to waste ASEAN-China efforts to promote practical activities to foster peace and cooperation in the region.

Under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines filed a total of 388 diplomatic protests from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2022. – Pia Lee-Brago

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