Philippine top Navy officer denies forging China deal on sea row

MANILA (Bloomberg): A senior Philippine military official at the centre of an alleged audio recording with a Chinese diplomat denied entering into an agreement with Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China has threatened to release the recording of the purported phone call with Philippine Navy Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos which Beijing claims is evidence of an agreement on a "new model” over the maritime dispute. Philippine officials have denied there was such deal.

"I did not forge any agreement at the level and magnitude that would bind our two countries for the long term and redefine foreign policy,” Carlos told a Philippine Senate inquiry on Wednesday. The admiral headed the Western Command, which oversees the disputed shoal, until he was replaced earlier this month.

Carlos told senators that he spoke with a Chinese embassy military attache in early January about ways to reduce tensions during resupply missions to the Philippine military’s outpost in Second Thomas Shoal.

The Chinese official, according to the Philippine navy officer, did not ask for his consent to record the conversation which lasted for three to five minutes.

"I did not enter into any secret deals that will compromise the interest of our country,” he told the Senate inquiry, calling for unity against "this false narrative.”

China dismissed the denial, saying it "precisely indicates” that Beijing and Manila have reached a consensus on controlling the situation in Second Thomas Shoal.

"Whether it is the gentleman’s agreement, internal understanding, or new model reached between China and the Philippines to properly control the situation in the South China Sea, the timeline is clear and definite, the facts are firm, the evidence is conclusive, and no one can deny it,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

Read: China Threatens to Release Audio of Secret Deal With Philippines

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said over the weekend that Manila is investigating the alleged recording which he claims is in the possession of the Chinese embassy and the Chinese government.

Carlos told senators he would provide details about the phone call with the Chinese official in a private executive session with lawmakers. "It was a very informal, casual conversation,” he said.

--With assistance from Charlie Zhu. -- ©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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