Reviewing the Mutual Defense Treaty
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - March 4, 2019 - 12:00am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was recently in the country, where he clarified that any attack by any country on Philippine vessels or planes in the South China Sea is covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), where America is duty-bound to defend the Philippines. The statement was made amid calls to review the said treaty, and the situation in which China has created artificial islands and claims most of the ocean. America will also see to it that freedom of navigation and overflights will be maintained in the South China Sea, despite the threats by China when a ship or a plane goes near “their territory”.

But for Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, he prefers to undergo a review of the terms of the treaty, whether “to maintain, strengthen, or dismiss it.” The treaty was forged in 1951, with the Cold War very much raging. Times are different now, hence a review is supposedly in order. If you listen to carefully to Lorenzana's words, you can actually hear President Duterte talking. His disdain for America is well-known. According to Lorenzana, the country has no enemies, with no one planning to invade the country, so why the continued need for America’s protection?

Is it because Duterte has embraced China, the country’s perceived enemy, that a review of the MDT is now in order? Can we really do without America’s help in case one our ships or aircraft is threatened or bullied by China? If the treaty is scrapped altogether, would that not embolden China to finally take away islands that we currently occupy, such as Pag-asa and Ayungin Shoal? Would BRP Sierra Madre, the decrepit rust-bucket serving as the living quarters of our Philippine Marines finally be towed away or taken down? Would China finally build an artificial island on Scarborough Shoal if the MDT no longer exists?

We have no idea what the situation holds should the MDT be scrapped. If the MDT still benefits the country, why even consider scrapping it? I do believe the treaty should be amended, strengthened if you will, to include the islands we already occupy as sovereign, where an attack or incursion by anyone would warrant a response from America. If America has always been a friend and ally, why put that aside, especially if Duterte were to be asked? Surveys always show America as the most trusted country by the majority of Filipinos, with China way below the midway mark. These are the questions that must be asked, if a review of the MDT is being planned. Certain conditions may be vague, with regards to the islands in the South China Sea, but for almost 70 years, the country has not experienced any threat of aggression or invasion. There is a saying that if something isn’t broken, do not fix it. Has the MDT already become disadvantageous to the country?

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