Duterte exec: Noynoy admin OK’d Ayungin status quo

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Duterte exec: Noynoy admin OK�d Ayungin status quo
The House committee on national defense and security and the special committee on the West Philippine Sea jointly convened yesterday to discuss the alleged gentleman’s agreement between former president Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea and former defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana were among the resource persons at yesterday’s hearing.
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MANILA, Philippines — It was the second Aquino administration that first made a commitment in 2013 not to have the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal repaired, a former official of the previous Duterte administration told a congressional panel yesterday.

At a joint hearing of the House committees on national defense and security and the West Philippine Sea, former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said keeping the status quo on the Sierra Madre was a commitment made by then defense chief Voltaire Gazmin to then Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing.

Medialdea said the commitment was to limit resupply missions to the delivery of food, water and other provisions to troops stationed on the Sierra Madre, a rusty World War II-era transport ship deliberately beached on the shoal to serve as a military outpost.

Delivery of construction materials was explicitly not allowed.

The House committees were investigating the supposed “gentleman’s agreement” between former president Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Upon questioning by 1Rider partylist Rep. Rodge Rodrigo, Medialdea stressed that such an agreement between the two leaders does not exist. “There was none.”

“The status quo on Ayungin Shoal where the BRP Sierra Madre – a dilapidated warship which has served as a Philippine military outpost in a low elevation reef since 1999 – was in a 2013 commitment of former defense secretary Gazmin to the Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing that he would only deliver food and water to the Marines stationed at the vessel,” Medialdea said.

ACT-CIS partylist Rep. France Castro moved to invite Gazmin to shed light on the matter. There was no objection to her motion.

According to Medialdea, he got the information regarding Gazmin’s deal with the Chinese ambassador when he asked around concerning the favorable ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the arbitral case filed against China by the Aquino administration.

The court decision came out on July 12, 2016 or 12 days after Duterte took office.

He said that while the commitment was made during the Aquino administration, the succeeding leadership opted to keep it, out of respect.

“I cannot elaborate with particularity on the status. That was what I gathered when the decision came out 12 days after we assumed office,” he maintained, referring to the arbitral ruling.

He said then president Duterte was only “of the position that we respect” the commitment.

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