MNS photo

MANILA, Nov 23 (Mabuhay) — The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States should be reviewed to prevent further attacks against the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, Senator and presidential aspirant Panfilo Lacson said Monday.

Lacson made the call after the China Coast Guard fired water cannons at Philippine supply vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea last November 16.

“The timing is now right to revisit the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty after the US expressed willingness to enhance efforts toward an international law-based maritime order, including freedom of navigation,” Lacson said in a statement.

“Malinaw sa West Philippine Sea, ang national interest natin, ma-exercise ang sovereign rights within the [200 nautical miles off shoreline] exclusive economic zone at sovereignty natin within 12 nautical miles [of our territorial sea],” he added.

Under the MDT between Manila and Washington, each party “recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

Likewise, the MDT provides that “an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the Island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

Lacson’s suggestion is also provided under Article 3 of the MDT which states that parties to the agreement, through their Foreign Ministers or their deputies “will consult together from time to time regarding the implementation of this Treaty and whenever in the opinion of either of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of the Parties is threatened by external armed attack in the Pacific.”

“Meron tayong sovereign rights sa EEZ natin kaya dapat i-assure natin na lahat ng nations that freedom of navigation will be observed and upheld. Ang China wala sa kanila ang freedom of navigation,” he added.

(We have sovereign rights to our exclusive economic zone thus we must assure all nations that we will observe and uphold that freedom of navigation. China does not consider freedom of navigation.)

The MDT is effective in perpetuity, although a party wishing to break away from it “may terminate the pact one year after notice has been given to the other party.”

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday condemned the action of Chinese ships attacking Philippines vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea via water cannon, saying such action is abhorrent.

The US government earlier called out China over the same incident, saying Beijing’s actions is a direct threat to regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions and infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law.

Likewise, the US government cited the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration decision in July 2016 which junked China’s nine-dash claim in the South China Sea.

In the same ruling, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“The People’s Republic of China should not interfere with lawful Philippine activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

The Chinese government has since justified their attacks by saying that the Philippine vessels “trespassed” and that Chinese forces were just doing their duty to protect Chinese territory.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said the resupply ships have been deployed and that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian told him there won’t be interference provided these ships won’t be escorted. (MNS)

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