By Darryl John Esguerra

HORRIFIED. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. takes questions from the media on Wednesday (April 10, 2024). The President said he was horrified by the reported “gentleman’s agreement” between his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, and China on the West Philippine Sea. (Darryl John Esguerra/PNA)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said he was “horrified” about the terms of the reported “gentleman’s agreement” between former President Rodrigo Duterte and China on the West Philippine Sea and revealed that he is currently seeking clarifications about the supposed deal.

“Kung ang sinasabi sa agreement na ‘yan ay kinakailangan tayong magpermiso sa ibang bansa para gumalaw sa ating sariling teritoryo, mahirap siguro sundan ‘yang ganyang klaseng agreement (If that deal says that we must get a permission from another country to move in our own territory, I think it will be difficult to follow that kind of agreement),” Marcos told reporters in an ambush interview in San Juan City.

“I am horrified by the idea that we have compromised, through a secret agreement, the territory, the sovereignty, and the sovereign rights of the Filipinos,” he added.

According to Marcos, he did not receive any information from the previous administration about the alleged deal when he took office.

“We don’t know anything about it. There is no documentation, there is no record, there is no… we were not briefed when I came into office. Walang man lang nagsabi sa amin na may ganoong usapan (No one told me that they have that kind of deal),” he said.

The President is now talking to former officials of his predecessor to shed light on the issue.

”We’re talking to his former officials. Maybe not the (former) President himself but all his former officials tinatanong namin, ano ba ‘yan? Ipaliwanag niyo naman sa amin para alam namin yung ginagawa naman (we are asking them what was that deal? Explain to us so we will know what to do) We still haven’t got a straight answer,” he added.

The Chief Executive also bared that he plans to talk to Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian to help uncover the supposed agreement.

Duterte’s former spokesman Harry Roque previously claimed that Duterte had a verbal agreement with China not to construct and repair Philippine facilities in the West Philippine Sea, including the sending of construction materials for BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded Philippine warship in Ayungin Shoal that serves as the country’s outpost in the area.

China and the Philippines have overlapping claims in maritime territories in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims entirely including features that are well within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled to dismiss China’s sweeping historical claims to the waterway, but Beijing has refused to acknowledge the ruling.

Tension in the disputed waterways was heightened by the water cannon attack of a China Coast Guard vessel on a Philippine supply ship en route to Ayungin Shoal on March 23, causing injuries to Filipino crew members. (PNA)