Metro Manila, Philippines— China has responded to the statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that there was no agreement between Manila and Beijing to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.
On Wednesday, the President even went as far saying that even if there was an agreement, he was rescinding it.
CNN Philippines spoke to some diplomatic sources from China and asked if they are willing to show proof of the said promise.
“What’s the point [of us doing] that if any agreement will be rescinded,” a diplomatic source said.
China maintained that the Philippine government committed to remove the World War II-era ship from Ayungin Shoal.
“Over this matter, China had repeatedly made representations to the Philippines and renewed the same demand,” according to a white position paper published by China in 2016 on settling issues in the South China Sea.
The documents were shared with CNN Philippines.
“In November 1999, the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines met with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Domingo Siazon and Chief of the Presidential Management Staff Leonora de Jesus to make another round of representations. Many times, the Philippines promised to tow away the vessel, but it has taken no action,” the document read.
China said they made another representation in 2003 with then acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Franklin Ebdalin, who gave assurance that the Philippines will not construct facilities on Ayungin Shoal.
The years mentioned by China covered the terms of former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Estrada’s son, Senator JV Ejercito, denied that his father entered into such an agreement.
“I cannot recall of such a commitment from the Philippine Government to remove the Sierra Madre. That area was peaceful and supply of food and supplies to the Marines until recently was smooth. There is nothing to rescind because there is no agreement in the first place,” Ejercito told reporters in a statement.
One Beijing diplomat added that some of the discussions on Ayungin Shoal were a “gentlemen’s agreement” and internal understanding.
“Facts are proven that the gentlemen’s agreement maintained stability in Ren ’ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal),” the diplomat said.
China however laments that the Philippine side recently started to ignore these agreements.
“This has raised concern for the Chinese people,” the diplomat said.
“Warning signals have been sent by the Chinese side, but the Philippines disregarded our warnings,” the source added.
“The dishonesty on the commitment precedes China’s reactions,” a Beijing diplomat added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed the strong protest of the Philippine government on the blocking and water cannon operations by the Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia vessels against Philippine supply boats last August 5.
The DFA reiterated to the Chinese side that Ayungin Shoal is a low-tide elevation that is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and that it cannot be appropriated or subjected to sovereignty claims.
The department also asked China to direct its vessels to stop their illegal actions against Philippine vessels, interference in legitimate Philippine government activities, and to abide with the 2016 Arbitral Award and international law.