MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday expressed appreciation over the assurance given by the United States on its commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty, as the two countries celebrated its continuing diplomatic relations.
In a video message marking its 75th year, Locsin said that US presence in the region is “vital to maintaining stability, peace, and the rules-based order.”
He also cited the “heightened US military assistance” under the Duterte administration.
“In the geopolitical challenges of today, we welcome the American reaffirmation of its commitment to the MDT articulated by no less than US President Joseph Biden, Jr. in a letter to President Duterte," Locsin said.
In his conversation with Locsin in April this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea, a big portion of which China claims as its own.
The US has several times said it would uphold its treaty with the country and support Southeast Asian countries resisting Beijing's pressure in the disputed waters.
It also pointed out that an "armed attack" against the country's armed forces would "trigger" its obligations under the treaty.
The two countries' 1951 MDT binds them to aid each other in the event of foreign aggression.
Chinese vessels have continued to encroach into the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the waterway, despite several diplomatic protests filed by the Philippine government.
Relations between the US and the Philippines have been somewhat touchy under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier declined invitations to go on official travel to the US, blasted criticism of US officials of his drug war, and threatened to cancel the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement only to walk back on it.
- Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News