(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said a “gentleman’s agreement” made by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, with Beijing on the South China Sea dispute was deliberately hidden from the public.

“They call it gentleman’s agreement. I call it secret agreement,” Marcos told reporters in Washington D.C. on Friday as he wrapped up his visit for a trilateral meeting with President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The country needs to know what Duterte agreed to or as part of a compromise, Marcos said.

The Philippines, under Marcos, has asserted its claims in the South China Sea, ramping up efforts to maintain a World War II-era ship that was deliberately grounded in 1999 to serve as Manila’s outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal.

Marcos’s latest remarks highlight the deepening policy disagreement with Duterte, who forged closer ties with China. Duterte said the verbal agreement involved keeping the status quo by not sending construction materials for the ship’s repair and upkeep, and that despite it, “we have not conceded anything to China,” ABS-CBN reported this week.

Philippine military missions that rotate and resupply troops on the ship, called BRP Sierra Madre, have become a constant source of tension between Manila and Beijing, with Chinese vessels blasting water cannons at Philippine ships several times. 

During the Duterte administration, China and the Philippines reached a “gentleman’s agreement, which had effectively helped maintain the overall peace and stability” in the Second Thomas Shoal, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said on Friday.

The Marcos administration stopped abiding by that agreement since February 2023, causing “constant volatility” in the area, the Chinese Embassy said.

In an interview with Chinese Communist Party-run Global Times published on Friday, Duterte accused the US of inflaming tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, while criticizing Marcos of supposedly doing America’s bidding.

Marcos has strengthened defense ties with US and Japan amid tensions with China.

“I think the trilateral agreement is extremely important. It is going to change the dynamic that we have been seeing in the region, in Asean, in Asia, around the South China Sea,” Marcos said.

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