‘Vagueness’ in US-PHL defense treaty not a deterrent: defense chief

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“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.

This is after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said that in vagueness lies uncertainty which is a deterrent. “Specificity invites evasion and actions outside the MDT framework. But too much vagueness lends itself to doubt the firmness of commitments. For the time being, helping the Philippines build up our self-defense capacity should do it,” Locsin said during a joint briefing in Manila last week with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo.

Secretary Lorenzana said the fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the Treaty.

“I would even argue that the MDT should have been reviewed when the U.S. bases were terminated in 1992, and we lost our security umbrella,” he said.

He explained that a couple of years after the US left the bases, the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef which is not an armed attack but it was aggression. “The US did not stop it,” he said.

He noted that the Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future. “But the United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war. In such a case and on the basis of the MDT, the Philippines will be automatically involved,” he said.

“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want,” Lorenzana said.