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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: NO sale involved in agreement over WPS

China has shown a contract of former president Rodrigo Duterte supposedly selling the West Philippine Sea

YouTube channel Balitang Pinas 2024-04-12 False

While both Duterte and the Chinese government have admitted to having a “gentleman’s agreement” over maritime activities in the WPS, neither of the parties have shown a contract about a supposed sale of the area.

A YouTube video claimed that a sale involving the West Philippine Sea (WPS) took place during the time of ex-president Rodrigo Duterte and that China has shown the public a contract to prove it. This is not true.

While both Duterte and the Chinese government have admitted to having a “gentleman’s agreement” over maritime activities in the WPS, no sale took place.

First uploaded on April 12, a day after Duterte admitted to having a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the WPS, the video’s headline read:

CHINA, IPINAKITA SA PUBLIKO ANG KONTRATA NILA KAY DUTERTE! DUTERTE, UMAMIN DIN!

(China showed the public its contract with Duterte! Duterte also admitted it)!”

Its thumbnail also bore photos of Pag-asa island, Duterte and Xi along with the text: “PINAKITA ANG KONTRATA! CHINA, IPINAKITA ANG KONTRATA NG PAGBENTA! TOTOONG IBINENTA! MAY EBIDENSYA ANG CHINA (Showed the contract! China showed the contract of sale. It’s true it was sold! China has evidence).”

There was no such sale.

Duterte, in an April 11 briefing, said his deal with Xi involved maintaining the status quo in the region:

“Aside from the fact of having a handshake with President Xi Jinping, the only thing I remember was status quo. That’s the word na walang galawan — no movement, no armed patrols there. As is where is, para walang magkagulo (so there will be no altercation).”

Source: Rody Duterte Facebook page, “Press Conference with PRRD April 11, 2024,” April 11, 2024 (from 4:23 to 4:51)  

The Chinese Embassy in Manila also said in a statement that the gentleman’s agreement allowed the Philippines to send food and water supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre but banned the transport of construction materials to repair the dilapidated ship grounded in Ayungin Shoal.  

For his part, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the Duterte and Xi pact a “secret deal” and questioned why it lacked proper documentation. The president also said in an April 16 interview that he has now rescinded the said agreement “if indeed it exists.”

Marcos earlier said he was “horrified that the territory, the sovereignty, and the sovereign rights of the Philippines” have been compromised through such a secret deal.

(Related: Are sovereignty and sovereign rights the same banana?)

The video showed no proof to support its claim but only featured a montage of Chinese ships harassing Philippine Coast Guard vessels in the WPS while audio from an April 14 episode of TV5 news program Frontline Sa Umaga played in the background.

Uploaded by YouTube channels Balitang Pinas and WANGBUDISS TV, the erroneous video garnered over 330,000 interactions. Facebook users also reposted the links.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)