Lorenzana contradicts Locsin on US-Philippines treaty review

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Lorenzana contradicts Locsin on US-Philippines treaty review
In this October 2, 2018 photo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attends the Senate hearing on the proposed budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Members of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet have opposing views when it comes to the proposal to review the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has publicly contradicted Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin, who earlier said he does not think a review of the treaty is necessary as he believes in the "old theory of deterrence."

In a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, Locsin said "in vagueness lies the best deterrence" on the decades-old defense agreement between the Philippines and the US.

Lorenzana, on the other hand, openly countered Locsin's pronouncements.

"I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis," Lorenzana said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Defense chief stressed that the security environment in the country has changed compared to the situation when the MDT was signed almost 70 years ago.

This is similar to the earlier statement of Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong who pointed out that there are certain conditions existing now "which were not present in the 50s, 60s and 70s."

"The fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the Treaty," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana further pointed out that the MDT should have been reviewed after the US bases were terminted in 1992 as the Philippines lost its "security umbrella."

"A couple years after the US left the bases, the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef — not an armed attack but it was aggression just the same. The US did not stop it," he added.

The Defense chief's statement comes days after Pompeo assured the Philippines that the MDT would cover the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

Washington's top diplomat confirmed that any armed attack against Philippine forces in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense defense obligations.

Lorenzana, on the other hand, pointed out that it is not the lack of reassurance that worries him.

"It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want," Lorenzana said, adding that the US Navy's increased presence in the South China Sea might trigger a shooting war and would automatically involve the Philippines on the basis of the MDT.

The US has been stepping up its freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea in a bid to China's dominance in the region. The US Indo-Pacific Command had declared that allies and partners, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and France, will be included in future operations.

Beijing has installed military facilities on its artificial islands in the contested waterway, completely ignoring a July 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its historic claims on the South China Sea.

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