“The MDT provides for an attack, an armed attack. This one is not an armed attack, this is purely maybe an accident, accident only,” he told reporters at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum.
‘No need to invoke MDT in Recto Bank incident’
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The hitting of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel at midnight of June 9 in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea was not an armed attack on the Philippines, hence not covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

“The MDT provides for an attack, an armed attack. This one is not an armed attack, this is purely maybe an accident, accident only,” he told reporters at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum.

On Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposal to seek help from the United States in patrolling the West Philippine Sea, Lorenzana said he finds it unacceptable as this could be considered militarization.

“I don’t think it is wise to involve a third party here in this sea accident. I don’t think I agree with that,” he stressed.

Lorenzana said he thinks that the Recto Bank incident “is just an accident, based on some of the information that we got from some of the crew.” He said the Chinese may have accidentally hit the fishing boat and opted to leave the area for fear of getting ganged up by other boats.

“For me, the tensions have already gone down because what really happened is not being revealed. So I ask our countrymen to be patient because the truth will come out once we get all the information so that we can move on from this,” he added.

Lorenzana said accusing the Chinese of bullying had only inflamed emotions. “I don’t think there’s bullying there, I don’t think this was ordered by the higher ups, kapitan lang ang may kasalanan doon dahil hindi nila tinulungan yung mga crew natin (only the captain was at fault here because they didn’t help our crew),” he said.

The defense chief stressed that the administration is very sensitive to public sentiments, and it is not true that such sentiments are being ignored.

“In our cluster meeting, I think we devoted about two-thirds of our discussion about what the people think about these things, but we also agreed, let us not unduly elevate this to a higher level than what it is supposed to be,” he said.

“It’s just in the lower level, it can be fixed. Let’s not elevate this and involve the whole government. That’s why we ask the people also to be patient because we’re doing something,” he said.

At the Kapihan sa Senado, Lacson said the Recto Bank incident was China’s way of testing how far it could go in asserting its claim in the West Philippine Sea.

Lacson disclosed he received information from a credible foreign source that the Recto Bank incident could be Beijing’s tack to gauge the extent of Manila’s reaction to such provocation.

“I did not ask (the source) the basis (of the information) but it indicated it was a test how far back we can go. Because if they (China) know that we keep on moving back, they’ll keep moving forward,” the senator said.

“That’s why it’s important to evaluate that information. Because if we’re really being tested by China how far back we are willing to go, incidents like these will go on and on,” he said.

He said he also received information that Yuemaobinyu 42212 is part of the Chinese government’s maritime militia, a paramilitary unit whose vessels masquerade as fishing boats that take orders from China’s military.

“Assuming that it is part of the armed maritime militia, that’s something else. It is sanctioned by the Chinese government,” Lacson said.

He said the government should at least assert  “whatever is left of our dignity as a people.”

He maintained that both parties should be sincere in efforts to get to the bottom of the incident – and move on from there. “But we cannot resolve this if one party is not willing to tell the truth,” he said. – With  Paolo Romero

DELFIN LORENZANA MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY
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