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.
“It is clear that in the West Philippine Sea, our national interest dictates that we exercise our sovereign rights within the exclusive economic zone and our sovereignty within 12 nautical miles [of our territorial sea],” he added.
In a separate statement, the Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer said he has long fought for the country’s rights in the WPS, but people have not listened to him.
“They haven’t listened to me for the longest time. I’ve already had a statement on the West Philippine Sea. I don’t even remember when I started speaking out about that. I think in 2016 or even before that,” stressed Lacson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.
“They simply aren’t listening, or they just don’t want to listen, or they just want to criticize,” he added in a radio interview Monday morning.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday condemned the action of Chinese ships attacking Philippine vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea via water cannon, saying such action is “abhorrent” (see story on A1—Editors).
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.”
“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,” he said.
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.”
As in his previous responses to critics, the veteran senator said he doesn’t pay much attention to accusations because he is focused on looking for solutions to the country’s myriad problems.
“I don’t care, I don’t mind. It was good for me to go there, to see the situation on the ground myself, and as I told Ted earlier, I’m already thinking of immediately actionable plans that can be done now,” he said.
Lacson also noted that his visit to the island helped him see the situation of its residents and fishermen and learn of their needs.
“If I didn’t go there, anyone who doesn’t visit a place won’t be able to appreciate it personally. So it’s up to them, they can criticize all they want. I will do what I believe is right.”
He asked his critics: “Who among our government officials has visited Pag-Asa Island. At least one came there. Shouldn’t the unenvious, or even the envious ones, be thankful that at least one national official went there?”
“I wonder how many Cabinet secretaries have gone there? Even the President hasn’t been there yet,” he said.
On Saturday, November 20, Lacson visited Pag-Asa Island, which is 225 km from Ayungin Shoal, to learn the safety situation of the island. He planted a Philippine flag there as a symbol of his resolve to defend the country’s territory, as he was accompanied by other Partido Reporma candidates and officials and the media.