Lorenzana to review Mutual Defense Treaty: 'Is it still relevant to our security?'

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he has directed lawyers from his department to review the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US), with the objective of either to “maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it.” 

On Friday, December 28, Lorenzana confirmed that there were efforts to review the MDT, but he was quick to clarify that this was not a formal action by the Philippines. He said he only directed the lawyers of the Department of National Defense to do so. (READ: How are PH-U.S. ties under Duterte? 'Terrific,' says envoy)

“Nasabi ko lang 'yan kasi tinanong ako eh if it’s time to review. Sabi ko siguro, because that was done in 1951… There was this raging Cold War. May Cold War noon eh. Do we still have a Cold War today? Is it still relevant to our security? Baka hindi na,” said Lorenzana.

(I only said that because I was asked if it’s time to review. I said perhaps, because that was done in 1951… There was this raging Cold War. There was a Cold War then. Do we still have a Cold War today? Is it still relevant to our security. Perhaps not.)

“We have to look at it dispassionately without considering past ties, future ties… 'Di nating sinasabi to strengthen para tulungan tayo kung may gulo. Sino ba kalaban natin? Are we hoping someone will attack us here in the Philippines? I don’t think so. Wala tayong kalaban siguro na sasakupin tayo eh,” he added.

(We have to look at dispassionately without considering past ties, future ties… We’re not saying we’ll strengthen it so that they will help us if there is a fight. Who are we fighting? Are we hoping someone will attack us here in the Philippines? I don’t think so. I don’t think we have an enemy that would take over our country.)

In 1951, the Mutual Defense Treaty was signed by the Philippines and the US, with the two countries committing to defend each other in the event of an armed attack. This is the Philippines' only defense treaty with another country and is considered a deterrent against foreign attacks.  

Asked by a reporter what was the objective of reviewing the nearly 70-year-old treaty, Lorenzana said it was to determine if the country should “maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it.”

Still, the DND chief said Philippines has been benefitting from Mutual Defense Treaty, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), and even the former US military bases in Subic and Clark. 

Kaakibat 'yan eh (They are part of the deal). There are benefits we get from this MDT,” said Lorenzana. 

The US is a longtime strategic ally of the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has been pivoting towards China and Russia. Still, engagements by the Philippines in 2018 showed the country is not moving away from the US despite Duterte’s rhetoric. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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