The escalating word war and diplomatic row have been sparked by hostilities between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships and other vessels since last year, with the last episode concerning reports on a “new model” agreement reached on the Ayungin Shoal raising the tensions.

Last week, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a warning amid the reported threat to release “unverifiable recordings” concerning the alleged “new model” agreement reached regarding Ayungin Shoal.

Philippine officials denied a claim by China that Manila had agreed on a “new model” in handling their territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has denied greenlighting a supposed “new model” between the Philippines and China as claimed by Chinese diplomats, describing the statements as “false narratives”.

In a statement on May 9, the DFA said Chinese diplomats have reportedly released to media the alleged transcripts or audio of an alleged conversation between the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – Western Command (AFP-WESCOM) and a Chinese diplomat concerning the alleged “new model” arrangement on the Ayungin Shoal.

“The DFA cautions against falling for.  Resorting to tactics such as releasing unverifiable recordings of supposed conversations with Philippine officials could demonstrate efforts to sow discord and confusion among Philippine agencies and the Filipino public.

“Diplomats should strictly adhere to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), particularly Article 41 thereof, which states that “…it is the duty of all persons……to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State.  They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State,” DFA said in a strongly worded statement.

The DFA has reiterated that is not aware of any “new model” arrangement being referred to by the Chinese Embassy with regard to Ayungin Shoal, and confirmed “that no cabinet-level official of the Marcos Administration has agreed to any Chinese proposal pertaining to the Ayungin Shoal.”

The Philippine government has refused the existence of “such document, record or deal, as purported by the Chinese Embassy,” adding that “has not entered into any agreement abandoning its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, including on the Ayungin Shoal. On issues of such importance, any agreements or arrangements would be made only if authorized at the highest level of government.”

This reaction comes after China claimed that Manila “it did reach the “gentlemen’s agreement,” internal understandings and the “new model” with China.”

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian in a regular press conference last week emphasized the fact that “China has all along been committed to managing maritime disputes, including the Ren’ai Jiao issue, with the Philippines through dialogue and consultation. The “gentlemen’s agreement”, internal understandings and the agreed “new model” all reflect China’s effort and sincerity to that end.”

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian noted that at the end of 2021, after intensive communication and consultation, China and the Philippines reached the “gentlemen’s agreement.” During the first few months of the current Philippine administration, both sides continued to implement the “gentlemen’s agreement” until the Philippines stopped honoring it in February 2023.

Last September, as he said, the Chinese side invited the Envoy of the President to China for Special Concerns of the Philippines to Beijing to discuss how to properly manage the situation at Ren’ai Jiao, which resulted in an internal understanding. The understanding was approved by the Philippine leadership. One resupply mission was carried out within the realm of the understanding before it was abandoned by the Philippines.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson pointed out that “Early this year, the Chinese side and the Philippine side agreed on a “new model” for resupply missions concerning Ren’ai Jiao after multiple rounds of discussions through the diplomatic channel and AFP WESCOM.

“The Philippine military has made repeated confirmation that the “new model” has been approved by all key officials in the Philippine chain of command, including the Secretary of National Defense and the National Security Advisor. On February 2, the Philippines carried out one resupply mission under this “new model” before abandoning it as well.

“Whatever the Philippines says, it will not erase the fact that it did reach the “gentlemen’s agreement,” internal understandings and the “new model” with China.

“Let me stress that those understandings and arrangements are aimed to manage differences, prevent conflict and build trust so that the waters of Ren’ai Jiao can remain peaceful and stable.

“China urges the Philippines to adhere to the basic norms on international exchanges, respect facts, honor its commitments, stop infringement and provocations and take concrete steps to come back to the right path of properly handling differences with China through dialogue and consultation.”