US envoy open to review of Mutual Defense Treaty

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US Ambassador Sung Kim

By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter

THE UNITED STATES welcomes the Philippine government’s plan to review the 67-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries, US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim said on Thursday.

“I think as (Defense) Undersecretary (Cardozo M.) Luna made it very clear, any document, especially an agreement that important and that complicated, always needs to be looked at very closely as the circumstances surrounding the agreement or the alliance evolves,” Mr. Kim told reporters on the sidelines of a foreign policy forum in Makati City.

“So we would welcome taking a close look at the treaty to see whether we can make any adjustments to make it even better than what it is now,” he added.

Mr. Kim said the two countries already have an ongoing dialogue “into various mechanisms and frameworks” of US-Philippines relations. He added that the US Embassy is in contact with the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on how to move forward on any discussion about the two countries’ relations, including the MDT.

“I think we will just continue to stay closely engaged and to talk to each other and if there are any adjustments that would be useful, certainly we would welcome an opportunity to make adjustments,” he said.

The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty mandates both the Philippines and the US to support each other in case either country is under attack in the Pacific region. This agreement has been cited in the South China Sea issue as to whether it will be enforced in the scenario that Philippine troops or vessels are attacked in the disputed waters.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana earlier said he wanted to review the US-Philippines defense agreement to determine whether it was still relevant to the country.

In his speech at the forum, Mr. Luna said the MDT has been the basis of the US-Philippines security alliance. He reiterated Mr. Lorenzana’s concerns that the Philippines wants to ensure that the frameworks in the treaty “continue to serve the mutual interest of both parties.”

“The MDT has been the basis of our alliance in our continuing joint defense capability programs. However, as with all other defense agreements, reviewing agreements is a normal course of action, especially since the MDT has been enforced for over 60 years,” Mr. Luna said.

“As we look back in the history of the alliance, it is evident that the MDT has been able to withstand the passage of time because both sides continue to work together in ensuring the partnership to adopt with the changes of security environment, while the alliance is considered ironclad as pronounced by our US counterparts in various fora. Our two sides remain flexible in finding ways to address contemporary security challenges,” he added.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique A. Manalo said, “US remains our only treaty ally. The Philippines and the United States, along with other defense partners of the region, share common security interests. And this is especially so with the dynamic geopolitical conditions in the Asia-Pacific region. Maintaining security and stability in the region is in the best interest of both our countries.”