MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. believes that there is no need to review the United States’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.
In a report on UNTV News and Rescue’s Ito Ang Balita by Nel Maribojoc, Locsin cited an “old theory of deterrence” in support of his opinion against reviewing the 68-year old defense deal during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Pasay City on Friday (March 1).
Locsin also expressed confidence in the repeated assurances of the US that it would assist the Philippines in case of an act of aggression.
“In vagueness lies the best deterrence. I don’t believe that going down into the details is the way the sincerity of the American commitment will be shown. They will respond, depending on the circumstances, ” he said.
Locsin, however, acknowledged that the proposal to review the treaty between Manila and Washington “requires further thought.”
It can be recalled that in 2018, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sought a review of the 1951 US-PHL Mutual Defense Treaty over its relevance, given the Philippines’ dispute with China in the South China Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte, in the past several occasions, has also expressed doubt if the U.S. would ever come to the country’s aid against China’s growing aggression in the disputed territories.
Pompeo, meanwhile, assured the Philippines that the Mutual Defense Treaty would cover the South China Sea, where China reclaimed some reefs and built artificial islands.
Under the accord, the two countries will support each other in case of attack by an external party in the pacific region.
“China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threatened your sovereignty, security, and economic livelihood, as well as the United States. As the South China Sea is the part of the pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft , or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Pompeo said.
Malacañang, on the other hand, still wants to pursue the proposal for review despite the assurance given by Pompeo.
“I’m sure the Secretary of Defense, Lorenzana would want to review despite the pronouncement. There may be some kinks in that treaty that needs to be clarified. So, I think there is still a need to review despite the policy statement. We will have to evaluate,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during an interview with Malacanang reporters on Friday.
Meanwhile, Washington’s top diplomat also committed to support the Philippine Armed Forces modernization program and strengthen the two countries’ cooperation in combating terrorism and illegal drug trade.
After meeting DFA Sec. Locsin, Pompeo met with a group of Filipino business leaders and visited the US Embassy in Manila before leaving the Philippines. – Robie de Guzman