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Teodoro to Filipinos: Let's not fall for Chinese propaganda

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. reminded the public that they must “not lose sight” of the “main threat” on the sovereign rights of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea amid purported rumors of the “gentleman’s agreement” with China. 

In an “open letter” penned by the defense chief on Tuesday, he warned Filipinos not to fall for Chinese propaganda which narratives distance the violations of the Chinese government at the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"Let us not fall into the trap set by Chinese propaganda of refocusing the debate on a so-called promise while deflecting attention away from China's government, thereby freeing and allowing them to continue with their illegal activities in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone)," Teodoro said in an open letter to Filipinos.

This “open letter” was released by Teodoro amid circulating rumors that former President Rodrigo Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping had a “gentleman’s agreement” wherein they agreed to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin shoal.

The agreement was revealed last week by former presidential spokesman Harry Roque. He said that Duterte and Xi had an agreement to keep WPS “status quo.”

RELATED: Roque: Xi, Duterte agreed to keep West Philippines Sea status quo

The National Task Force for the WPS previously said that it is not aware of Roque’s statement concerning the reported gentleman’s agreement.

Another former presidential spokesman of Duterte, Salvador Panelo, denied the existence of the agreement between Duterte and the Chinese president. 

“Kung sino man nagkakalat ng gentleman’s agreement ‘yun po ay nagsisinungaling,” Panelo said in an interview with Sonsine Media Network International. 

(Whoever is spreading the gentleman's agreement is lying.)

The BRP Sierra Madre has been anchored to the Ayungin Shoal since 1999 to be the country’s permanent outpost in the area amid China’s expansion to the South China Sea.

Despite the 2016 arbitral ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea favoring the Philippines, China does not acknowledge Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea and its exclusive economic zone.

This has led to increased