MANILA - A senator on Tuesday said the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty would protect the Philippines and its neighbors from armed and economic aggression by calling to their defense several western nations.
The treaty signed Sep. 8, 1954 is "stronger than" the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), said Senator Francis Tolentino.
"There is an active treaty, there is a Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty...wherein in case of armed aggression within Southeast Asian territory, responses would come not just from US, Australia, France, Greta Britain and even New Zealand," he told ANC's Headstart.
"This is all encompassing, it’s not just armed threats but even economic threats could be subsumed. Even in the website of US state Department it is still valid, they still recognize this treaty."
On the anniversary of Manila's arbitral win against Beijing in the West Philippine Sea, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again warned China that an attack on Philippine armed forces in the disputed waters would trigger the MDT.
Blinken's remark is the "opportune time to revisit" the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to "add more meat and follow the examples of other countries," said Tolentino.
The VFA provides the legal framework under which US troops can operate on a rotational basis in the country and experts say without it other bilateral defense agreements, including the MDT, cannot be implemented.
"I would support the notion that we have to strengthen this on the basis of national interest. We have to take advantage of the continuation done by (US) President (Joe) Biden," Tolentino said.
"The ball is now on the part of Malacañang and I support a strengthening of the VFA."
President Rodrigo Duterte last year unilaterally canceled the two-decade-old VFA, in an angry response to an ally being denied a visa. The withdrawal period has been twice extended to create what Philippine officials have said is a window for better terms to be agreed.