Lorenzana clashes with Locsin over PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (File photos)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday, March 5, countered Foreign Secretary ’s pronouncement about the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

Locsin stated “in vagueness lies the best deterrence” on the decades-old defense agreement between the Philippines and the U.S.. This was during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, March 1.

Lorenza, who is pushing for a review of the MDT, released a statement that contradicted Locsin’s argument.

“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Lorenzana also argued that the review of the MDT should have been done after the U.S. bases were terminated in 1992 as the Philippines lost its “security umbrella.”

“A couple years after the U.S. left the bases, the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef — not an armed attack but it was aggression just the same. The U.S. did not stop it,” he said.

Unwanted war

Pompeo on Friday assured the public that “any armed attack on any Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The reassurance was noted by former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario as “one of the most important statements made in the many decades since the Mutual Defense Treaty was ratified in 1951.”

Lorenzana, however, pointed out that it is not the lack of reassurance that worries him.

“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future. But the United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war. In such a case and on the basis of the MDT, the Philippines will be automatically involved,” he said.

“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want,” he added.

The U.S.’ sustained freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea has continued to provoke angry protests from China and tense moments between the rival naval forces.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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