Imprudent to invoke defense pact with US now: Palace

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Malacañang on Wednesday said invoking the mutual defense treaty (MDT) with the United States on the Reed Bank incident may be an irresponsible move at this time.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this reaction as he dismissed Senator Panfilo Lacson’s suggestion to invoke the nearly seven-decade old defense treaty between the Philippines and the US.

“Before we can invoke our Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, there must first be an act of aggression against us. The facts have yet to be established pointing to the incident as an act of aggression by the Chinese government,” he said.

Panelo, also Chief Presidential legal counsel, said the MDT recognizes the primary use of peaceful means in resolving international disputes.

“Invoking the strong medicine of the MDT at this time when facts about the maritime incident in our exclusive economic zone have not yet been firmly established would not only be imprudent, it would be irresponsible as well,” he said.

Panelo said the Philippine government’s top priority is to advance the welfare of the 22 fishermen after their fishing boat was allegedly rammed and abandoned by a Chinese vessel while anchored off Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9, 2019.

“Our immediate priority is looking out for the welfare of the affected 22 fishermen and for the safety of the entire Filipino fishing community, and even for the security of all our countrymen,” he said.

Panelo called on the public to be more circumspect in what he calls is a time of confusion.

“There will be a time to demand for reparation once the facts have been established,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Wednesday said he has already directed the Agricultural Credit Policy Council to release PHP25,000 for each of the 22 fishermen under the Survival Response (SURE) Loan Program to help them recover from their losses after the incident.

The fishermen also received from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 11 30-foot fiberglass boats with engines, nets, and other accessories.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development also gave the 22 fishermen PHP10,000 each and food packs, while the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS), through Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, also gave the fishermen PHP10,000 each. PNA