Marcos: Not yet time to invoke MDT amid latest WPS incidents

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.(Photo from Bongbong Marcos Facebook page)

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sees it is not yet time for the country to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States amid China’s heightened aggression in the West Philippine Sea.  

Marcos, however, expressed “great alarm” over the increasing incidents of harassment by the China Coast Guard against the Philippine vessels in the country’s territorial waters. 

“I do not think that it is a time or the reason to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty. However, we continue to view with great alarm this continuing dangerous maneuvers and dangerous actions that are being done against our seamen, our Coast Guard,” Marcos, speaking with the reporters in Melbourne, said. 

Marcos lamented that China’s latest aggressive actions in WPS resulted in the damage of the country’s vessels tasked to resupply the troops stationed to the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.

“They damaged the cargo ship and caused some injury to some of our seamen and I think that we cannot view this in any way but in the most serious way,” he said. 

Under the MDT, the Philippines and the US have agreed to assist each other if an armed attack in the Pacific area, on either Manila or Washington would be put in a dangerous situation, and may act accordingly to address common challenges under constitutional processes.

In a press conference in Manila, the National Task for the West Philippine Sea noted that invoking the MDT with the US “needs a high-level consultation.”

NTF WPS spokesperson Jonathan Malaya was asked if activating the MDT by the two countries is now necessary after China’s water cannon attack injured four Filipino crew on board a resupply boat en route to Ayungin Shoal.

“The invocation of the MDT is subject to consultation between the Philippines and the US. And given that, it is subject to high-level consultations. The NTF WPS cannot make any comment as of this time,” Malaya responded. 

“This is a very sensitive matter and I think this matter is better addressed by higher authorities. Suffice to say that consultations are being conducted between the Philippines and the US over this issue,” he added.

On the other hand, Marcos raised suspicion that the two Chinese survey vessels were not “merely doing research” when it was spotted loitering in the Philippine (Benham) Rise over the weekend. 

He also noted that the presence of the Chinese ships in the area was “absolutely unnecessary.”

“Once again, this is a clear intrusion into our Philippine maritime territory and it is, as usual, of great concern. And I see this as absolutely unnecessary because if it is truly a research vessel then we could have come to a very simple agreement that the research vessel will ply the waters and do the research that they need to do,” Marcos stressed. 

“However, there is a suspicion that they are not only research vessels so, again, this is a bit of an escalation of the tension that is present in the West Philippines Sea,” the President added.

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