Gibo: Beware of ‘trap set by Chinese propaganda’

Gibo Teodoro: Beware of ‘trap set by Chinese propaganda’

Defense Secretary Gilberto ‘Gibo’ Teodoro Jr. posts a rare open letter urging Filipinos to stay focused on the ‘main threat’ posed by China’s illegal acts in the West Philippine Sea, warning of the latter’s attempts to deflect the issue.
By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 05:50 AM April 03, 2024

PHOTO: Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. STORY: Gibo Teodoro: Beware of ‘trap set by Chinese propaganda’

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (File photo by ARNEL TACSON /

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. warned Filipinos not to fall for any “Chinese propaganda” that would deflect the issue of Beijing’s encroachment in the West Philippine Sea amid controversy over a purported “gentleman’s agreement” that restricted the country’s maritime activities during the Duterte administration.

In a rare open letter posted on Tuesday, the defense chief urged the public to be wary of attempts by Chinese propagandists to steer the conversation away from what he called the “main threat” posed by China’s harassment of Philippine vessels and its other illegal activities in the disputed water.


READ: NSC: ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ on West PH Sea violates PH sovereignty


READ: Carpio: Duterte gave up PH right over Ayungin in an agreement w/ China

He said such propaganda had been highlighting Manila’s supposed violation of a deal between former President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping with regard to the conduct of the Philippines’ resupply missions to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Filipinos’ fishing activities in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“While we realize that accountability is important in the issue on whether or not a so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was forged with China regarding the BRP Sierra Madre and Ayungin Shoal, we Filipinos must not lose sight of the fact that the main threat to our rights in the WPS (West Philippine Sea) is the Chinese government’s illegal activities,” Teodoro said, using the Philippine name for the waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

Refocusing debate

On March 27, Duterte’s former spokesperson, Harry Roque, said the former president had struck a “status quo agreement” with China allowing the Philippines to deliver “only water and food” to Filipino troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded World War II-era warship that serves as Manila’s military outpost in Ayungin.

Under the supposed verbal deal formalized with then Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Manila was banned from bringing construction materials to the dilapidated ship to assert the country’s sovereignty in the area, according to Roque.

He said the deal also granted Filipino fisherfolk access to Panatag as long as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) stayed away.


Roque, however, denied that the agreement included a promise by the Philippines to tow away the BRP Sierra Madre, as China had claimed.

Neither Duterte nor Cayetano, who is now a senator, has addressed the matter publicly since Roque’s disclosure.

READ: Ex-President Duterte-China ‘agreement’ on Ayungin bared, jeered

“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,” Teodoro said.

Ayungin and Panatag both lie within the Philippine EEZ.

Security advisers’ call

Also on Tuesday, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said he and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan discussed China’s “coercive, aggressive and deceptive actions” in the West Philippine Sea during a phone call.

Año “expressed his appreciation for the United States’ continued assurances and reaffirmation of its ironclad commitment” to their alliance, the National Security Council said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the White House said Sullivan reassured Año of Washington’s support for Manila following China’s “dangerous actions” obstructing “a lawful Philippine resupply mission” to Ayungin.

Sullivan was referring to the March 23 water cannon attack by Chinese ships on a Philippine resupply boat heading to BRP Sierra Madre, leaving three Philippine Navy crew members wounded.

“Mr. Sullivan underscored the ironclad US alliance commitments to the Philippines under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—to include those of its Coast Guard — anywhere in the South China Sea,” the White House said.

Under the 1951 treaty, Manila and Washington vowed to come to each other’s aid in the event of an armed attack.

‘Strive to educate’

Año and Sullivan also discussed the trilateral meeting between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on April 11.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG’s spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, urged Filipinos to unite against China’s illegal actions in the West Philippine Sea.

Tarriela warned that China’s efforts to “spread misinformation and create division are strong, so we must double our efforts to counter their lies.”

He urged Filipinos to educate fellow Filipinos “who may have been misinformed and have accepted China’s false narratives” with “courtesy and professionalism.”

“We should strive to educate and provide accurate information to help them understand the truth that our fight in the West Philippine Sea is not dictated by any external actor but driven by our national interest,” he said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, policed by an armada of coast guard vessels, some more than 1,000 km away from its mainland. China has maintained its responses have been appropriate in the face of Philippine encroachment.

The rows come at a time when the Philippines and the United States are deepening military ties, frustrating China, which sees Washington as interfering in its backyard.

Closer to war

But the activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) warned that such a relationship with Manila’s treaty ally might only bring the country closer to war with Beijing.

“These actions by the US military, in cooperation with the Marcos government, escalate the already high tensions in the WPS and Taiwan Strait,” Bayan said.

“At the very least, this gives China an additional justification for more military activities in [those] areas,” the group said.

Bayan cited the March arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group in Manila, followed by the USS Tripoli amphibious assault ship with F-35B stealth jets in Subic Bay.

Around 11,000 US uniformed personnel are also set to take part in the annual joint Balikatan military exercises with Filipino forces later this month.

Bayan said there were more effective ways to defend Philippine sovereign rights without increasing the US troop presence, suggesting more aggressive use of diplomacy and legal challenges while maintaining maritime patrols.

The group said “the aim should be to deescalate and demilitarize the conflict, not the other way around.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“Marcos is transforming the entire country into a US military base, training ground and theater of war,” it said.

TAGS: PH-China relations, West Philippine Sea

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.