Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there is no need to review the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States.
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
Palace: No need to review mutual defense treaty
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is pleased over the assurance given by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Washington is prepared to help defend the Philippines in case of an attack.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there is no need to review the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States.

“We will have to evaluate. But we are pleased to note that the US has made a policy statement with respect to attacks on a Philippine vessel to be deemed as an attack against the US,” Panelo said.

Panelo told a press briefing that the Philippines can bank on Pompeo’s assurance under the MDT. 

“(Pompeo) said also that any attack against any vessel of the Philippines will trigger the application of the Mutual Defense Treaty – which means they will support the Philippines,” he said.

Panelo said the Philippine government holds on to the US policy statement, both countries being longtime defense allies. 

“Oh, by just saying that ‘We have your back,’ that means ‘we are behind you, we will support you’,” he said.

The visiting US official and President Duterte held a meeting late Thursday that lasted around 45 minutes.

During the meeting, Panelo said the President highlighted prospects of stronger and more meaningful ties with the US, particularly on defense and security, peace and order, regional stability.

It was also an assertion on the need to respect the rule of law in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea to prevent escalation of tensions among countries involved.

“(Duterte) thereafter discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in countering terrorism and violent extremism,” Panelo said.

Duterte also extended his gratitude to the US for the return of Balangiga bells before he reaffirmed the strength of Philippines-US alliance.

In response, Panelo reported Pompeo expressed confidence in the strength of the Philippines-US alliance.?“He also reaffirmed their country’s commitment to strengthen cooperation and deepen engagement with the Philippines on matters of mutual interest and common concern at the regional and global arena, including the rule of law and need for a rules-based regime in the West Philippine Sea,” Panelo added.

Panelo said the US Secretary of State also assured the Philippines of Washington’s support.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez and Locsin were present at the meeting last Thursday.

Revisiting the MDT

Lorenzana, however, still pushed for the review of the MDT.

He also described the position taken by Locsin who said there’s no need to revisit the MDT, as the secretary’s own point of view as a diplomat.

“That is a revelation. I still want a review,” Lorenzana said.

The defence chief said the review is needed in order for the agreement to be attuned with the times, especially with the current security development in the region.

He pointed out that even the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos brought up the idea of reviewing the treaty because of its ambiguities.

Had these ambiguities been resolved during the Marcos regime,  Lorenzana said the current regional security development, particularly in the South China Sea, would not have happened at all.

China apparently knows fully well that the Philippines could not invoke the MDT, according to Lorenzana.

“They (China) did so without directly attacking the Philippines’ troops or ships deployed in the area,” he said.

This is precisely the reason why the treaty must be reviewed to iron things out, and for the agreement to be beneficial to both parties.

“For now, we are reviewing the treaty on our own,” Lorenzana said.

He said he intends to bring up the issue with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Filter in his visit to the country this month.

Filter, who was formerly assigned in the Philippines, will engage in exploratory talks involving the review of the MDT, Lorenzana said.

Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the Department of National Defense (DND) maintains its stand that the MDT needs to be reviewed to clarify its supposedly vague provisions.

“While it may be true that ambiguity may serve as a deterrent, the fact that certain conditions that now exist in our security environment, which were not present in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, make a review necessary today,” Andolong said yesterday.

He said this is the reason why Lorenzana’s view to have the MDT reviewed has not changed.  

“For now, we prefer not to elaborate on the issue any further so as not to preempt the review and compromise what you call ‘vagueness’ in the MDT,” Andolong explained. – With Jaime Laude, Emmanuel Tupas

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