US envoy welcomes Mutual Defense Treaty review
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - February 7, 2019 - 12:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Washington's top envoy in Manila has welcomed the proposition of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to review the provisions of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries.

US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim agreed with the position of the Department of Defense that any agreement of such importance "should be looked at very closely."

"The circumstances surrounding the agreement on our alliance evolves so we would welcome taking a close look at the treaty to see whether we can make any adjustments to make even better what it is now," Kim told reporters at the sidelines of a US-Philippines forum in Makati City.

The American envoy also noted that the Philippines and the US are holding dialogue at various levels.

During the same event, Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna reiterated Lorenzana's call for a review of the MDT given the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, or what the country calls West Philippine Sea.

"Our secretary wishes to ensure that the frameworks we have in place continue to serve the mutual interest of both parties," Luna said in a speech.

Luna noted that for the past decades, the treaty has been able to withstand the passage of time as both countries continue to work together.

"While our alliance is considered ironclad, as pronounced by our US counterparts, in various fora our two sides remain flexible in finding ways to address contemporary security challenges," Luna said.

Late last year, Lorenzana suggested reviewing the provisions of the MDT for the US to give a definitive position on whether it will support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in case of a confrontation with other South China Sea claimants.

The Defense secretary stressed that areas in the disputed waterway where the Philippines has sovereign rights should be covered by the agreement. This would obligate Washington to assist the country in case of an attack by other states.

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party-list), a former Marine officer, had earlier expressed support for this proposal. He also noted that the US has adopted a "hands-off" attitude on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“A review of the treaty would make way for the still ambiguous provisions of the agreement to be clarified. This is particularly needed in case of any attack by a foreign country on our territory, including the West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.

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