Philippines-China relations

Marcos to Duterte: What did you compromise in ‘secret agreement’ with China?

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Marcos to Duterte: What did you compromise in ‘secret agreement’ with China?

HARASSMENT. A Philippine Coast Guard vessel is 'impeded and encircled' by Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea on March 23, 2024.

Screengrab from Philippine Coast Guard video

President Marcos says he also plans to get answers from former Duterte officials on his predecessor's 'gentleman's agreement' with his Chinese counterpart on Ayungin Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has several questions for former president Rodrigo Duterte on his “gentleman’s agreement” with China on Ayungin Shoal, among them, why he kept it a secret to the Filipino people and what the deal entailed.

“Para sa akin maliwanag na may tinago – may usapan sila na tinago nila sa taumbayan, number one (For me, it’s clear that they hid something – they had discussions that were kept from the people, number one),” Marcos said in response to questions in a Philippine media interview in Washington on Friday, April 12.

He was asked about the Chinese embassy in Manila’s confirmation of the existence of such an agreement, though Duterte denied it.

“So, now, with the confirmation of the Chinese embassy, we now know that there was a secret agreement. Now,…the second question that I have is what is contained in the secret agreement?” he said.

“We need to know, what did you agree to? What did you compromise? Ano ‘yung pinamigay ninyo? Bakit nagagalit sa atin ang mga kaibigan natin sa China dahil hindi kami sumusunod? Ano ‘yung dapat naming gawin? Ano’ng laman ng secret agreement na ‘yan?” he added.

(We need to know, what did you agree to? What did you compromise? What did you give away? Why are our friends from China angry at us because of we didn’t follow it? What is it that we should we do? What does that agreement entail?)

The Chinese embassy said in a statement posted on its website on Friday that under the deal with the Duterte administration, Philippine resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre would only be limited to the delivery of food and water and would not include construction and repair materials.

China has been harassing Philippine resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, calling such actions “provocative.”

The Philippines and its allies have slammed China’s actions, which were among the top agenda in the first trilateral summit of the leaders of the United States, the Philippines, and Japan in Washington. (READ: US, Japan, Philippines condemn Beijing’s South China Sea moves in summit)

Accountability issue

Marcos reiterated that then-outgoing president Duterte and his officials did not mention any such deal during the transition period between administrations following his victory in the 2022 presidential elections.

Marcos said he also wants to hear from former Duterte officials who may shed light on what the agreement entailed, but did not identify them. 

“Tanong natin sa kanila. Eh walang dokumento. Oh sige, ano ba talaga, ano ba talaga? I- kuwento naman ninyo kung ano ‘yung nangyari? What part did you play in all of these? Well, we need to clarify the situation because nalalagay ang Pilipinas sa alanganin,” he said.

(Let’s ask them. There’s no documentation. What is is about? Tell us what happened. What part did you play in all of these? Well, we need to clarify the situation because the Philippines is being placed in a compromising situation.)

“I’ll talk to the former officials, and see what they have to say. I can get a straight answer on any of them,” he added.

Marcos said he “disagrees” with the idea of entering into a secret agreement because it would allow those behind it to escape accountability. 

“[If] you have any secret, any agreement with another sovereign state should really be known by the people, should be known by the elected officials, should be known by the Senate. Because the treaty is to be ratified by the Senate. It should be known by all the local officials. It should be known by everyone,” he said.

“If it’s a bad decision, you’re accountable,” he added.

Marcos also wondered aloud why a “very experienced lawyer” like Duterte would enter into such an important agreement without any written documentation.

“Walang dokumento. Hindi ko nga maintindihan, very experienced lawyer si president Duterte. Ang abogado lahat gusto nila nakasulat lahat ‘yan. Bakit walang nakasulat na kahit isang papel? Bakit walang video? Bakit walang announcement? Nothing,” he said.

(There are no documents. I can’t understand this – [former] president Duterte is a very experienced lawyer. All lawyers want everything in writing. Why was there not even one sheet of paper? Why is there no video? Why is there no announcement? Nothing.)

“So, papaano namin magagawa, kung gusto naming sundan, kung ayaw naming sundan, hindi pa rin, hindi namin alam (So what could we do, if we want to follow it or not follow, we have no idea). So, whatever foreign policy we undertook vis-à-vis South China Sea, West Philippine Sea was just continuing our foreign policy of maintaining the peace and promoting the national interest,” he added.

Marcos said in an April 10 interview that he was “horrified by the idea that we have compromised, through a secret agreement, the territory, the sovereignty, and the sovereign rights of the Filipinos.” –


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