Lorenzana stresses need to review 70-year-old defense treaty with US
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana emphasized the need to review the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and United States as he noted non-treaty allies are receiving more aid from them.
In an online event to mark the 70th anniversary of the MDT, Lorenzana said the Philippines "seek to upgrade and update the Philippine-US alliance."
"Revisions and additions in MDT and other relevant Philippine-US defense agreement to ensure we have maximum possible cooperation and interoperability to deal with so-called ‘gray zone’ threats, namely state-sanctioned/supported maritime militia forces, that have been intimidating smaller claimant states and their fishermen in recent years," he said.
"The US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim has publicly suggested that the MDT could also apply to this type of hybrid warfare strategy deployed by the likes of China. But we need more specific operational discussions and, eventually, joint activities within the bounds of our existing defense commitments," he added.
Lorenzana stressed the importance of the "reiteration and further clarification of the precise extent of American commitments to the Philippines under the MDT, and in accordance with the 2016 arbitral tribunal award at the Hague"
"This is immensely relevant against the backdrop of rising tensions in the South China Sea, including the prospect of a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) declaration, forcible expulsion of Filipino troops stationed over the Second Thomas Shoal (part of Philippine continental shelf), or reclamation and militarization of the Scarborough Shoal," he said.
"As we ramp up our efforts to improve our facilities in the Spratly features within the Philippine continental shelf and control, the issue of alliance commitments will
become even more important," he added.
Lorenzana said that as the "Philippines is currently in the midst of an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar military modernization program", the country "needs and desires a modern, professional and capable armed forces that could address current and future security concerns within our vast maritime domain."
"In this light, we believe it’s important that we go beyond ‘Vietnam era’ hardware in bilateral grants and purchases and, accordingly, move towards acquisition of evermore advanced weapons systems that will allow us to have a ‘minimum deterrence’ capability against external threats and adversaries," he said.
"Non-treaty allies countries have been receiving billion-dollar military aid and advanced weapons systems from the US. Perhaps, a long-time ally like the Philippines, facing major adversaries in Asia, deserves as much, if not more assistance and commitment, the defense chief stated.
"In summary, the MDT has been beneficial to the Philippines, but not enough to make it stand on its own feet. We cannot be forever relying on others for our security.
Helping the Philippines modernize its military would make it a more reliable and dependable ally to the United States in the pursuit of a free and peaceful Indo Pacific," he added. Robina Asido/DMS