Manila should review its defence agreement with Washington to clarify when the United States will come to its aid, as tensions in the South China Sea are the Philippines’ “most difficult” security challenge, its Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.
A former defence attaché to Washington, Lorenzana was speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Association in Manila where he sketched the main domestic and external security challenges the country was grappling with, such as its ongoing communist insurgency and violent extremism.
He devoted most of his speech to the threat of competing territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.
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“Compounding the issue is the backdrop of a rapidly evolving regional environment where US-China geopolitical rivalry is deepening and a potential Taiwan Strait conflict is brewing,” he said.
Lawmakers had asked him on Wednesday in the Senate whether China would attack Taiwan and he told them it was very unlikely. “In the unlikely event China will attack, we just watch,” he said.
In light of these tensions, Manila had called for a review of its Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) with Washington.
“We believe it is time to sit down with our US counterparts and revisit the terms of our alliance. We are partners. We have deep historical ties. We must clearly define our roles and responsibilities when the need arises to be joined in arms,” Lorenzana said.