Aquino gov’t urged not to rely on US in dispute with China
MANILA, Philippines—Will G.I. Joe come to the Philippines’ rescue in the event of a full-scale armed confrontation with China over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)?
Senator Francis Escudero, former chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, cautioned administration officials on Saturday against relying on the United States in case the territorial dispute with Beijing led to a military conflict.
The senator asked the Palace to designate the Department of Foreign Affairs as the lead agency to talk about the issue in public. He said Malacañang should not do so through its spokespersons “in order to avoid any faux pas on our part.”
Escudero said the government should also review the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the US to ascertain if American forces could indeed come to the rescue if the Philippines were attacked because of the West Philippine Sea dispute.
“The last thing we like to see happening is to be encouraged and to be emboldened to fight with an assurance of an ally but find ourselves alone in the field,” he said, “only because we did not do our own compliance like checking what we really have in fine prints with the US.”
He added: “I urge Palace officials to carefully review the MDT and read through its fine print and get confirmations from the US government through its ambassador if indeed this situation is covered or what the limitations there may be to the application of the MDT from the point of view of the US government.”
He was optimistic that American military support would arrive in case of an armed conflict, but would happen as “a gesture of long-standing friendship.”
Escudero was reacting to a statement by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Oban that the military remained “hopeful that the Americans will not stand aside should the conflict erupt” and that the Philippines could involve the defense agreement.
The senator said the best approach was still to try to resolve the conflict through diplomacy.
“Any issue or conflict must be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic avenues as stipulated in the Asean Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” he said. “I really am hopeful that this issue can be settled without bloodshed.”
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