The Philippines on Saturday denied a claim that has reached an internal agreement with China on the Ayungin Shoal, calling the claim propaganda.

The Philippines Department of National Defence (DND) has completely rejected China’s claims of having any internal agreement on the Ayungin Shoal, Philippines Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr reported.

“The DND is not aware of, nor is it a party to, any internal agreement with China on Ayungin Shoal since President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. took office,” Teodoro said.

Secretary Teodoro said the DND has not had any contact with any Chinese government officials since last year.

“This is all a part of the Chinese propaganda effort to steer the Filipino people’s attention away from the real issue and cause of the tensions in the West Philippine Sea, which is China’s obstinate refusal to adhere to UNCLOS, which they are a signatory to,” he added.

“We will never enter into any agreement that will compromise our sovereignty and sovereign rights under the UNCLOS, as affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” Teodoro added.

Teodoro called China’s claims of a bilateral agreement “part of the Chinese propaganda,” adding that the Philippines would never enter into any agreement that would jeopardize its interests in the region.

The Philippines has accused China of displaying aggressive acts in the region. The territorial dispute between China and the US-aligned Philippines is at increasingly high risk of escalating into a conflict involving the two countries, analysts have said.

Manila has accused the Chinese Coast Guard for “excessive and unlawful actions against Philippine vessels near Ayungin Shoal.”

Recently defence forces of the U.S., Japan, Australia and the Philippines conducted maritime cooperative activity on April 7, amid heightened tension between Manila and Beijing in the disputed waters.

“The narrative that unnamed or unidentified Chinese officials are propagating is another crude attempt to advance a falsehood,” Secretary Teodoro said.