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Marcos ‘shocked’ at the idea that Duterte would endanger the PHL’s sovereignty



Marcos 'shocked' at the idea that Duterte would endanger the PHL's sovereignty

By means of Kyle Aristophere T. Atienz, News reporter

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Wednesday he is “shocked” by the thought that Philippine sovereignty could be threatened by a “gentleman’s agreement” between his predecessor and China over the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

“I am appalled by the idea that through a secret agreement we have endangered the territory, sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Filipinos,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Metro Manila.

Tensions have worsened over the past year as China’s coast guard continues to block supply missions to Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines grounded a World War II ship in 1999 to assert its sovereignty.

He said his government should clarify the details of the deal with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian and former officials under ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“We don’t know if it is a secret agreement,” Mr. Marcos said. “We don’t know anything about it. There is no documentation, there is no record. We were not informed when I came to the office.”

Former presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque earlier said the Philippines had agreed with China to maintain the status quo on Second Thomas Shoal, meaning only basic supplies, and not construction materials, would be delivered to the grounded ship. BRP Sierra Madre.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry said last month that Beijing had raised the gentlemen’s agreement in its proposals to Manila on how to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

“It would be difficult to follow an agreement that says we must ask permission from other countries to move within our own territory,” Marcos said.

Former legal adviser to the president, Salvador Panelo, has said his former boss entered into a gentleman’s deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Antonio P. Contreras, a political expert from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, said Mr. Marcos is well-positioned to dig deeper into the deal, noting that the Filipinos support his South China Sea policy support, based on opinion polls.

An Octa Research poll in December showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos wanted the government to increase patrols and troop presence within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the waterway.

Mr. Contreras expects the maritime conflict with China to become a major issue in next year’s midterm elections.

It will especially affect the political ambitions of the ex-president’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, he said, adding that it does not help that she remains silent on Chinese aggression. “It’s going to hurt her.”

“There will be an interesting realignment of political forces,” Contreras said by phone, noting that some opposition groups support moves to hold the Duterte administration accountable for its pro-China policies.

“The Commander in Chief has every right to be shocked by this possibility, given that the Gentlemen’s Agreement had created false expectations that Manila is easy to give in and lacks sophistication in the field of international relations,” said Joshua Bernard B. Espeña , who teaches international relations at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Chester B. Cabalza, founder of the International Development and Security Cooperation in Manila, said China is expected to use the deal in an attempt to influence Philippine politics ahead of next year’s elections.

“Beijing may push for this card for political intervention during elections in the Philippines as many politicians hope to get some of the Chinese funding during the campaign season,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Marcos, 66, has deviated from his predecessor’s pro-China policies and strengthened Philippine ties with the United States and its allies in the region.

The Philippine leader was scheduled to fly to Washington DC later in the day for his triple summit with US President Joseph R. Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 11.

The trilateral summit aims to secure freedom of navigation in southern China Sea, said Mr. Marcos. “In essence, it is an agreement on cooperation in maintaining security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. That is the essence of it.”

“And obviously it will include more details in terms of how, in terms of cooperation, it will be implemented,” he added.

The Philippines has given the US access to four more military bases on top of the five existing sites under its 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The two countries held their first maritime cooperative activity in Philippine waters in November, while the third leg took place in February.

The treaty’s allies will hold their annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises from April 22 to May 18, with 5,000 Philippine soldiers and 11,000 U.S. military personnel expected to participate.

According to the Philippine military, it will take place for the first time outside the 12 nautical mile territorial waters of the Philippines.

The three leaders are expected to advance a trilateral partnership based on historic ties, growing economic ties, shared democratic values ​​and a “shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the White House said.

They will also discuss how to advance their economic and climate cooperation.

Washington is expected to reaffirm “rock-solid alliances” with Manila and Tokyo. both of which are treaty allies.

Mr Marcos and Mr Biden were expected to have a separate meeting.