US to protect Philippines in West Philippine Sea, says Gazmin


Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines said Wednesday the United States had pledged to protect it from attacks in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a day after China issued a warning over a territorial row in the waters.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he had received the assurances during talks in Washington last week in which the Philippines’ increasingly tense dispute with China over rival claims to a shoal in the sea were discussed.

Gazmin said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed they were not taking sides in the dispute, but they assured the Philippines the United States would honor a 1951 mutual defense treaty.

“It includes armed attack… (on) island territories in the Pacific (region),” Gazmin said, citing conditions for the allies coming to each other’s aid.

In answer to a question about the dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal, Gazmin said he had interpreted remarks by Clinton to mean the United States would protect the Philippines from any attack in the West Philippine Sea.

“Overall, with these statements, they cover our problem in the West Philippine Sea,” he said, using the Philippine name for the waters.

China and the Philippines have had vessels stationed at Scarborough Shoal for more than a month in an effort to assert their sovereignty over the area.

China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea as its own, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries.

The Philippines insists it has sovereignty over the shoal because it falls within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and 1,200 kilometers northwest from the nearest major Chinese land mass, according to Filipino navy maps.

Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas resources, making the area one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

China warned on Tuesday it was prepared for “any escalation” in the dispute with the Philippines, which followed an editorial in a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party calling for a small-scale war to end the stand-off.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario also issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Clinton and Panetta had reaffirmed during the Washington talks US commitment to the mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

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  • lapasan

    It is welcome that the US will help the Philippines protect the Philippine Sea. However, the Philippines should learn to stand on its own feet. US policies change according to who sits in the white house and who the ruling party in power is. A new president might have different perspective from his predecessors and may introduce and enforce a different course of action. I believe that the US is still a lesser evil compared to other powerful countries. But it can’t be totally trusted either. They propped up dictators like Somoza, Noriega, the Shah of Iran and our very own President Marcos and others. But when things turned bad for them, the US turned its back on those leaders who were its allies. Let us not also forget Vietnam. The US escalated the war there. When the war became unbearable to the US, it abandoned (or betrayed President Nguyen Van Thieu?) ant the South Vietnamese Army which was eventually defeated by the communists. I am not an anti US, but the Philippines should be prudent in its dealing with the big powers.

  • D_evil

    Just because the US is protecting the Philippines, there is no cause for Philippines to be mischievous in the South China Sea. The Philippines must be responsible for its own action and not drag the US into its fight. 

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