Philippines mulls review of defense treaty with US
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is eyeing to clarify with the United States if the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea are covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty.
“We are thinking about that. We also want to review that,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Thursday when asked if the Philippines should finally resolve the questions surrounding the treaty.
The Philippines and the US are bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), signed on Aug. 30, 1951, which calls for both states to come to each other’s defense against an armed attack. But the US commitment to defend the Philippines if the attack involves disputed territories has remained a gray area in the alliance.
“Very ambivalent ang US dyan sa Mutual Defense Treaty. Ang sinasabi nila sa MDT ay Metropolitan Philippines and ang definition nila is just the whole country plus mga islands na sakop natin. I think hindi kasama ang Kalayaan (Island Group). Yun ang problema natin the US has always said they will not meddle in territorial disputes. That’s how we look at it, the (disputed) islands are not covered by the MDT. In fact yung Scarborough Shoal, napakalapit 130 kilometers lang from Masinloc, Zambales eh mukhang hindi pa siguro sa kanila kasama yan sa Metropolitan Philippines,” Lorenzana said.
(The US is very ambivalent with the Mutual Defense Treaty. They are saying that the MDT only covers the Metropolitan Philippines and their definition of that is the whole country and the islands we occupy. I think it does not include the Kalayaan (Spratlys). That’s our problem. The US has always said they will not meddle in territorial disputes. That’s how we look at it, the (disputed) islands are not covered by the MDT. the In fact the Scarborough Shoal, which is very close at 130 kilometers from Masinloc, Zambales, appears not to be recognized by the US under Metropolitan Philippines.)
The Philippines is one of the claimants of the South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to contain vast resources. While the US is not a claimant, it has expressed concern over China’s militarization of the disputed features and excessive maritime claims.
Lorenzana said he has discussed with his agency the possibility of reviewing the treaty.
“We still need to discuss the provisions there. We need to review it to make it stronger so we can make our alliance stronger with the US. It is the only country we have an alliance with,” he said.
Last week, a ranking US defense official assured the Philippines that Washington will be committed to protecting its treaty ally in case of foreign invasion or armed attack but was unclear when asked if it includes Philippine-occupied reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
“We’d like to avoid hypotheticals — what if this happens, what if that happens. In general, our alliance is ironclad and we are committed to the Mutual Defense Treaty and in protecting our treaty ally the Philippines in ensuring its sovereignty isn’t threatened,” said Dr. Joseph Felter, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, told reporters. /je
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