DFA: US' obligation to Philippines covers South China Sea
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2014 - 2:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs attempted to dispel fears that American President Barack Obama did not commit to defend the Philippines in the maritime dispute with China.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario reiterated in a statement Wednesday that the United States is bound by the 61-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines, obligating both parties to come to each other's defense in cases of external armed attack.

"Under the Mutual Defense Treaty, the United States will come to the assistance of the Philippines if our metropolitan territory is attacked or if our Armed Forces are attacked in the Pacific area," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario cited the preamble and Article 5 of the accord, signed a few years after the end of World War II, when Filipino and American forces fought together.

The section defines the scope of an "external armed attack" on a territory or military unit of each of the signatories. This covers areas of economic and social importance, island territories in the Pacific Ocean and armed forces units, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

Del Rosario said that the US has identified the contested South China Sea, adapted locally as West Philippine Sea, to be included in the defensible territories.

"In 1999, in a diplomatic letter, the United States affirmed that the South China Sea is considered as part of the Pacific area," Del Rosario said.

On May 24, 1999, then US Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Hubbard wrote a letter to former Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon stating that the "US considers the South China Sea to be part of the Pacific area."

Former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance similarly exchanged a correspondence with then Foreign Secretary Carlos Romulo on January 6, 1979 that an attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft "would not have to occur within the metropolitan territory of the Philippines or island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific in order to come within the definition of Pacific area."

Del Rosario also received a reassurance from former US state department chief Hillary Clinton in a meeting in Washington, D.C. that the US "will honor its treaty obligations to the Philippines."

AMERICAN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ARMED FORCES DEL ROSARIO DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS FILIPINO AND AMERICAN FOREIGN SECRETARY ALBERT FOREIGN SECRETARY CARLOS ROMULO SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES
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