Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said the United States should enforce the mutual defense treaty (MDT) with the Philippines in the wake of maritime tension in the South China Sea.
“I’m calling now America. I am invoking the RP-US pact, and I would like America to gather their Seventh Fleet in front of China. I’m asking them now,” he said during a TV interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
The President invoked the 68-year-old pact amid calls to enforce the MDT in light of the Recto Bank incident in June, where a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Philippine waters and left the fisherfolk adrift at sea.
Duterte said that if America sends its Seventh Fleet — a the part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed in Japan — to South China Sea, he will go onboard. He said he wants to bring along his critics, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and ex-Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“I will join them. I will ride on the boat with admiral of the US, but I will drag along Carpio and the rest of the — Albert. When the Americans say, ‘we’re here now. Ready?’ Ready. I will press the (button),” he said.
He warned that this move might be the end of Palawan.
This pronouncement comes after the Philippines and US concluded the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila. During the dialogue, Philippine Ambassador to US Babe Romualdez said the two countries are in talks to “strengthen” the decades-old treaty. He said the Mutual Defense Board is set to meet in September.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously assured US will secure and defend the Philippines in case of an attack in the disputed region of the West Philippine Sea.
The MDT, signed by the Philippines and U.S. in 1951, states that both countries would assist each other when either one is attacked by a foreign force. MDT’s Article IV states that an armed attack against any of the parties “declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.” When or how the U.S. will step in in case of an attack remains unclear.