MANILA, Sept 30 (Mabuhay) –Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday disclosed that China had opposed a plan to review the 70-year-old defense treaty between the Philippines and United States, which binds America to defend Manila from aggression, including in the disputed South China Sea.
“While the US welcomes the idea of revisiting the MDT, an outside party does not. When I first broached the idea of revisiting the MDT, the former Chinese ambassador came to me and said, ‘Please do not touch the MDT. Leave it as it is,’” Lorenzana told a virtual forum marking the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between Philippines and the United States.
Lorenzana did not name the Chinese envoy. When President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016, China’s ambassador to the Philippines was Zhao Jianhua.
“One thing is clear: The Chinese are not in a hurry for any resolution that is not in its favor,” Lorenzana said. “China knew that any aggression will trigger the MDT.”
The Philippines and China have been embroiled in years-long territorial disputes in the South China Sea, particularly in its southern part called the Spratlys.
Lorenza reiterated his position for a comprehensive review of MDT, citing new regional security challenges and China’s vast territorial claims in the waters, including in areas that belong to the Philippines.
Amending the defense pact, he said, would ensure that the Philippines and the US could better respond to China’s “grey zone” and “cabbage” tactics of aggressively pressing its claims over the waters, where Chinese maritime militia have been intimidating smaller claimants.
Apart from the Philippines, other governments such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim the waters in parts or in whole.
The Philippines won against China in a landmark ruling in July 12, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated Beijing’s massive and historic claim over the South China Sea.
Despite the Duterte administration’s friendly overtures to China, Beijing has maintained an aggressive stance and installed military outposts in its claimed territories even as it encroached on Philippine waters.
The Philippine government has repeatedly protested Chinese incursions in its waters and harassment of Filipino fishermen and other civilian vessels inside its exclusive economic zone.
In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to stand by the Philippines against aggression and warned China that an attack on Philippine military in the South China Sea would trigger the MDT. (MNS)