Department of National Defense (DND) Chief Delfin Lorenzana announced on Monday, February 4 that a high-ranking panel of United States officials will review the U.S.-Philippines 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“They have been asking me what our plans and their high-level delegations will be arriving here soon, not yet the formal talks but just maybe the audience to explore what other things that we are thinking on our side. We also want to know what they are thinking on their side,” Lorenzana said as reported by CNN Philippines.
The defense chief wanted to clarify the “ambiguities” in the 67-year-old agreement. He stated that the review might cover recent controversies involving the issue in the contested West Philippine Sea.
“We just want to know, remove the ambiguities because they always say that we do not involve ourselves in territorial disputes. I think that’s the origin of all the problems in the West Philippine Sea when they said we are not involving ourselves in territorial disputes,” he said.
He said that the U.S. review team should specify the assistance that they are willing to extend in the country since a lot of security concerns are present in the area. He added that the first world country might be of help should extreme territorial disputes arise.
“They could define our territory also, what is the limit of our territories. If they said that they are going to defend us or help us if Metropolitan Philippines is attacked, what do they mean by ‘Metropolitan Philippines?’ Does it include Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef or Pag-asa (island)? That’s ambiguous there,” Lorenzana said.
“Suppose there will be shooting there, and they invoked the MDT then you are involved, we’re involved,” he added.
The 1951 agreement included a provision that the Philippines and the U.S. would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force.
U.S. Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim supported the idea of the defense secretary to have a review of the defense treaty. He said that any agreement of such importance “should be looked at very closely.”
“The circumstances surrounding the agreement on our alliance evolves so we would welcome taking a close look at the treaty to see whether we can make any adjustments to make even better what it is now,” Kim said as reported by The Philippine Star.
According to Lorenzana, the review of the treaty is expected to happen within the year.