Locsin weighs in on PH-US treaty


“In vagueness lies the best deterrence,’’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said as he commented on the almost seven-decade-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States during his joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after their meeting last week.
Locsin said he was confident about the assurances given by Pompeo, and that there was no need to review or modify the treaty, according to a Manila-based think tank.

Locsin’s remarks implied that the long-standing US-Philippines alliance remained strong despite the apparent growing influence of China in the Philippines, said Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, he had put aside the landmark Hague ruling in exchange for economic grants from Beijing, investments and expanded trade, which had been described as a “policy of appeasement,” Manhit said.

In his recent visit to Manila, Pompeo offered fresh assurances to the Filipinos that the US was ready to defend the Philippines “in case of armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea.”
That was the first open affirmation of American military commitment of support to Philippine sovereignty over the South China Sea.

The treaty provides that the Philippines and the United States will come to each other’s aid in case of armed attacks.
Pompeo said China’s island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threatened Philippine sovereignty, security and economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States.
There were concerns and apprehensions in the past on the commitment of the US to defend the Philippines amid the tensions in the South China Sea as a result of the belligerent stance of China.

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was not convinced that the ambiguity and vagueness of the treaty with the US would serve as a deterrent. He said it would cause confusion and chaos during a crisis.

Lorenzana directed lawyers from his department several weeks ago to review the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, with the objective of either “maintain[ing] it, strengthen[ing] it or scrap[ping] it.”

Contrary to the pro-China stance of the Duterte administration, a Social Weather Station survey last year showed that six in 10 Filipinos believed the US would defend the Philippines in case of an invasion by another country.

Among those aware of the treaty even before the survey, 80 percent believed that the US would defend the Philippines in case of an invasion. Of the 80 percent, 48 percent strongly believed and 32 percent somewhat believed, SWS said.