Philippine defence chief announces review of military alliance with US

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The US has affirmed its alliance with the Philippines after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced a review the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

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Lorenzana said he has directed lawyers from his department to review the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries, with the objective to “maintain it, strengthen it or scrap it”.

On Friday, December 28, Lorenzana confirmed that there was a move to review the MDT, but clarified that this was not a formal action by the Philippines.

“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.”

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“We have to look at dispassionately without considering past ties, future ties. We are 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.”

The treaty between the Philippines and the US commits both countries to defend each other in the event of an armed attack.

Asked 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”.

However, the military chief emphasised that the Philippines had benefited from the treaty, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the former US military bases in Subic and Clark.

“They are part of the deal. There are benefits we get from this MDT,” he said.

When asked if the territorial disputes in the South China Sea would also be part of the review, Lorenza replied: “Everything, everything, everything. The dynamics going on all over the world.”

In response, Trude Raizen, a press attache at the US Embassy in Manila, said: “We have a strong and robust security alliance with the Philippines, and the United States by its mutual defence treaty obligations.

“As Ambassador Kim said, ‘Our Commitment to this alliance is absolute. It’s ironclad’.”

Despite the long ties between the Philippines and the US, President Duterte has announced a policy of pivoting towards China and Russia. However, despite this, opinion polls consistently show the majority of Filipino people favour Washington.

Lorenzana’s words are also at odds with a statement he made earlier this month, when he described the alliance with the US as “the biggest strength of the Philippines”.

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