Lorenzana seeks review of 'ambiguous' PH-US defense treaty

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2019 08:19 PM

Philippine and US marines simulate an amphibious landing as part of annual joint military exercises in San Antonio, Zambales in May 2018. Ted Aljibe, Agence-France Presse/File

MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday he would still push for a review of the country's Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States despite Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.'s statement that such was not necessary. 

Lorenzana wants a review of the nearly 68-year-old MDT because of “ambiguities” in its wording, particularly the provision stating that it would be activated upon an “attack” on Philippine forces, vessels, aircraft or controlled areas.

It is this provision, Lorenzana believes, that has allowed China unhampered access into the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea). 

"Sinasabi kasi sa MDT no attack, sa West Philippine Sea di naman tayo inatake eh, kumuha lang sila ng island eh, ano 'yun? Saan 'yun? Where will that fall under? So those are the ambiguities," the defense chief told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

(It says 'attack' under the MDT, but we are not being attacked in the West Philippine Sea, they (the Chinese) are just stealing our island. So where will that fall under? So those are the ambiguities.)

"Hindi shooting war, kundi kinakamkam 'yung lupa mo, nasaan yun? Where will it fall under? 'Yun ang ambiguous sa'kin eh."

(It's not a shooting war, but your land is being seized, where will it fall under? That is what's ambiguous for me.)

Lorenzana said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration that the South China Sea is covered by the MDT is not new and should not be the basis for calling off the review. 

The chief US diplomat had made the statement in Manila in a news conference Friday. He met with President Rodrigo Duterte the night before and discussed security matters and other bilateral concerns. 

For Lorenzana, the ambiguity lies in whether or not the US would act immediately under the MDT in case of an attack on the Philippines or would still seek congressional approval for it.

The Philippines’ Department of National Defense is already reviewing the MDT, preparing key points before sitting down with US counterparts. 

Lorenzana said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joe Felter will visit the Philippines this month for initial talks about the MDT.