MANILA - The Philippines still needs to review a nearly 7-decade old defense pact with the United States despite Washington's assurance of support in the event of "any armed attack," a Malacañang official said Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Manila accepts Washington's offer of protection but noted that terms in the defense pact should be "clear-cut."
"There may be some kinks in the treaty that need to be clarified," he said during a Palace press briefing.
"It's much better perhaps that it's clear-cut in the treaty itself so I think there's still a need to review despite the policy statement," he added.
Panelo's remarks come after Washington's top diplomat assured Manila that the defense pact covers its sea dispute with China.
"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," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
Pompeo's remarks are the first clarification on the treaty's role in the Philippines' sea dispute with China which Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana earlier sought to be reviewed.
Lorenzana earlier said it is the US interpretation that the treaty covers only "metropolitan" Philippines, noting that this does not include the Philippine-occupied areas in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines and the US are already long-time allies bound by a mutual defense pact, which binds the two countries to aid each other in the event of an attack.
Last year, Manila and Beijing entered into a memorandum of understanding to "arrive at an agreement" on gas in the disputed waters during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the Philippines.