Marcos: Duterte-China 'secret Ayungin agreement' could compromise sovereignty

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Marcos: Duterte-China 'secret Ayungin agreement' could compromise sovereignty
Incoming Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (L) and outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte (2nd L) salute during the inauguration ceremony for Marcos at the Malacanang presidential palace grounds in Manila on June 30, 2022. The son of the Philippines' late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was to be sworn in as president on June 30, completing a decades-long effort to restore the clan to the country's highest office.
AFP / Francis Malasig

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the agreement between Beijing and former President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the West Philippine Sea as a "secret deal," expressing concerns that keeping it undisclosed could compromise Manila's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Marcos said this during a media interview in Washington D.C. Friday (US time) after the Chinese Embassy in Manila confirmed a so-called gentleman's agreement with the past government regarding the Ayungin Shoal, a feature within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claimed by Beijing.

"So, now, with the confirmation of the Chinese Embassy. We now know that there was a secret agreement. Now, this is, the second question that I have, is 'What is contained in the second agreement?'" said Marcos to reporters.

"What did the Duterte administration promise China? ... It is only now that we've confirmed of such an agreement. They call it a gentleman's agreement, I call it a secret agreement."

The Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, also being claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, lies 105 nautical miles from Palawan, which is well within the West Philippine Sea inside the latter's EEZ.

China maintains its presence within the area while harassing Filipino vessels, even when the Permanent Court of Arbitration already invalidated its claim for almost the entire South China Sea in 2016. The ruling effectively sided with Manila.

Marcos likewise said that he's ready to sit down with Duterte to discuss foreign policy and the agreements in connection with the South China Sea. The former leader earlier claimed that he has possession of documents relating to all the deals entered into by his administration with the East Asian giant.

The current head of state also said that he disagrees with the idea of entering into a secret agreement since it could comprimise the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"It should be known by the local officials. It should be known by everyone. Because in that way you can... you are accountable. If it’s a bad decision, you’re accountable," Marcos said.

"Tell us that you made a mistake. Right? What are you hiding? Why did you keep it a secret? What are you hiding? Why was it secret?"

Under the 1987 Constitution, all treaties or international agreements could only be valid and effective after the concurrence of at least two-third of all members of the Senate.

'Silence' of VP Sara

While this is not the first time that Marcos and the elder Duterte traded barbs, the current president made sure to defend the former presidential daughter and current Vice President Sara Duterte from her alleged silence on the West Philippine Sea.

The president emphasized that it is not Sara Duterte's role or responsibility as education secretary to discuss matters concerning China, even though she is part of the Marcos government.

"So, I think we are all in line because I’m very sure that if Inday Sara had some very serious misgivings about what we are doing in terms of foreign policies, she would bring that to me," said Marcos.

"She said, 'I will just do my job...' That's a good policy. So, I don’t think it is something that we need to be concerned with."

The Philippines, Australia, Japan and the United States held joint naval and air drills  the West Philippine Sea last Sunday in an attempt to demonstrate their "collective commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific."

US President Joe Biden recently reiterated America's pledge to defend the Philippines from any attack in the South China Sea, saying that it could invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty.

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