The MDT between the US and the Philippines was signed in 1951, in the early years of the Cold War. It commits both countries to come to the assistance of the other in the event of an “armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”
In December, Lorenzana ordered a review into whether the treaty was “still valid or still relevant today.”
“It’s a 67-year-old treaty. Is it still relevant to our national interest? That’s what we should look at. Let us look at it dispassionately, without considering about past ties, about future ties — dispassionately,” he said, adding the end goal was “to maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it.”
“Differences in interpretation arise from the fact that the United States does not explicitly state whether Philippine-claimed disputed territory falls under the provisions of the mutual defense treaty,” CFR said in a 2016 report. “Some of these territorial claims were made in the 1970s, decades after the treaty was ratified.”
“As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Pompeo said.
Speaking alongside him, Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said the two governments “shared the view that the alliance must be able to ensure the unfailing mutual defense of our two countries.”
On Monday however, Lorenzana pointed to what he said was previous US failure to uphold its part of the deal and defend the Philippines’ territorial integrity.
Following the closure of the US naval base in Subic Bay, west of Manila, in 1992, Lorenzana said “the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef — not an armed attack — but it was aggression just the same. The US did not stop it.”
“It’s now in their hands. So why do we have to create frictions (and undertake) strong military activity that will prompt response from China?” the President said.
Similar concerns seemed to be on Lorenzana’s mind Monday, when he said, “it is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.”