With China in vicinity, Philippine turns to US, seeks review of defense treaty


With China’s new structural presence in the South China Sea, the Philippine government through Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin is turning to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to discuss issues in the South China Sea.

The arranged meeting of Locsin and Pompeo took place amidst the reported presence of newly-constructed Chinese structure in Bombay reef in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).

The 90-feet modest structure was reportedly topped by a dome and solar panels. Aside from the South China issue, Locsin and Pompeo also discussed counter-terrorism and the Korean Peninsula tension.

With the reported additional structure of China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he wanted a thorough review of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty after Philippine officials continue to raise doubts that if the US will indeed help defend the Philippines in case of foreign attack.

Consequently, it is not clear which provision of the Treaty the Department of National Defense wanted to review but for some experts the existing Mutual Defense Treaty has benefitted the Philippines after the treaty was forged in 1951.

Eduardo Sanson is one of Philippine’s legal luminaries and Dean of WMSU’s College of Law. (Supplied)

Experts defends 1951 treaty

Lawyer Eduardo Sanson, a geopolitical expert and dean of the College of Law of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), told Al Arabiya that as a result of the 1951 mutual defense treaty, no aggressor ever dared to attack the Philippines since 1951.

“After the second world war, would-be aggressors had to think twice at invading the Philippines because they know the United States will come into the defense of the Philippines,” Sanson added.

In Washington, Pompeo also reaffirmed its security commitment to the Philippines during the Washington meet between Locsin and Pompeo.

In the Philippines, opposition lawmakers are presently challenging the Duterte administration to make a stand or stage a diplomatic protest on the presence of China structures and naval assets moving within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

One lawmaker, opposition senator Kiko Pangilinan in a press statement said the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest and not simply be as meek as lamb in the face of these assaults on our sovereignty.

In response, Lorenzana made a bold statement that the Philippines is willing to launch a diplomatic protest on China if China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea are inconsistent with Philippine national sovereignty.

Entrance façade of Western Mindanao Command, one of the Philippine’s largest military headquarters outside Manila. (Supplied)

China-Philippine relations
The announcement of Lorenzana came when the Duterte administration has been initiating moves to bring Philippines and China economically closer. China has been providing financial assistance and foreign direct investments to the Philippines providing job opportunities that are helping locals in terms of employment.

To supplement this, the Philippines was a recipient of the $ 3 million equipment from China in the building of Marawi, a war-torn city, in the Southern Philippines. China also pledged to help repair roads and bridges in the same battle-torn city and is working to provide 100,000 Filipinos teaching jobs in China.

Moreover, China, which also signed 29 trade deals with the Philippines, was also the only country to ask the UN to support the Philippines war against drugs that generated criticism from human rights groups. While some Western states stood against Duterte’s campaign against drugs, China stood by the Philippines.

Thus, it would be an awkward move for the Philippines to launch a diplomatic protest and at the same receive continuous aid and support from China. While the US has the Mutual Defense Treaty to call the Philippines as one of Asia’s oldest allies, China on the other hand, is also becoming one of Philippine’s closest Asian ally despite the dispute in the South China Sea.

With this, it would be difficult for the Philippines to launch a diplomatic protest against China amidst the expansive structures in the West Philippine Sea.