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Lorenzana: Time to review PH-US defense treaty

/ 05:22 AM December 21, 2018

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said the Philippines wanted to review the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States amid concerns about hostile encounters between the country’s longtime military ally and China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), an area where Beijing and Manila have conflicting territorial claims but not covered by the 1951 accord.

“Since we have a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US we might get involved in their conflict because it is [happening] in our turf. It is within the West Philippine Sea, within our sovereign jurisdiction in the WPS,” Lorenzana said at a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

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Destroyers’ near-collision

He said encounters between American and Chinese forces in the area were “very concerning,” particularly the recent near-collision of destroyers from both countries.

“They (United States and China) might go into a shooting war and there might be a miscalculation,” Lorenzana said.

The 67-year-old treaty says “an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the Island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

Lorenzana noted that the accord’s territorial coverage was silent on areas in the WPS that the country is claiming.

US ‘very ambivalent’

“The US is very ambivalent there,” he said. “The US has always said it will not meddle into territorial disputes. They would not care about that [dispute].”

Lorenzana said the islands, shoals and reefs in the WPS that comprise the Kalayaan Island Group claimed by the Philippines were not covered because they were outside the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“So if anything happens, those islands are not covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

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Even Scarborough Shoal, which is west of Zambales province and within the Philippine EEZ, may not be considered part “metropolitan” Philippines, he added.

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TAGS: Delfin Lorenzana, Maritime Dispute, Mutual Defense Treaty, South China Sea, US-Philippines relations, West Philippine Sea
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