Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday doubled down on his earlier call on the importance and the necessity to review the ambiguities in the decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to make it clearer and to avoid confusion during critical times.
Lorenzana stressed the vagueness on some provisions of the defense treaty can deter and delay expected appropriate response during situations that may call for the same, thus may sow confusion and chaos during crises.
“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., was earlier quoted as saying there was no need to review the treaty.
“The fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the treaty,” Lorenzana said.
To recall, Locsin said last week “vagueness lies the best deterrence” when it comes to the MDT.
During the recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he finally made the long-awaited clarification that the MDT covers the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The Philippines and the US are bound by the MDT, signed on 30 August 1951 which calls for both states to come to each other’s defense against an armed attack.
But the US commitment to defend the Philippines if the attack involves disputed territories has persistently raised doubts in recent years.
Lorenzana said his concern is not the lack of reassurance by the US, but with being dragged in a conflict that the Philippines does not want to get involved in.
“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” he said.
Lorenzana, however, noted the United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the WPS, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war.
He added in such a case and on the basis of the MDT, the Philippines will be automatically involved.
Lorenzana stressed that the MDT should have been reviewed in the early 90s when the US bases agreement was terminated and the Philippines “lost its security umbrella.”
With Kathleen Mae Bulquerin