MALACAÑANG said the Philippines will invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States if it is the right thing to do.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after US Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Sung said that foreign government-sanctioned attacks initiated by militia or armed civilians in the South China Sea may trigger the MDT of the US and the Philippines.
In an interview with One News, Kim said that the US will honor the provisions of the treaty which binds the two countries to support each other in case of an external attack.
“[US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] made clear that because the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, under the treaty itself, any armed attack on Filipino vessels, Filipino aircraft will trigger our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
In his Monday press briefing, Panelo said that the Philippines will also honor the agreement if that is what it dictates.
“Kung yun ang nakalagay sa treaty, ‘di yun ang susundin natin. Kung yun ang agreement (If that is what is stated in the treaty, then we will follow that–if that is the agreement),” he said.
“Kung ano ang dapat nararapat doon sa agreement na yun (Whatever that agreement tells us to do), we will do that,” he added.
The Palace official, however, refused to comment if the incident in the Recto Bank qualifies as an event which can trigger the MDT.
“Hindi pa nga natin alam (We still don’t know yet),” Panelo said, referring to what really happened in the disputed waters.
It was reported that an anchored Filipino fishing boat near the Recto Bank sunk after it was hit by a Chinese vessel on June 9. The 22 crew of the boat were abandoned and were only rescued by a Vietnamese vessel three hours later.
Malacañang initially condemned the act of abandonment by the Chinese vessel, calling it “barbaric” and “inhumane.” However, China, in a statement, denied that the vessel abandoned the Filipino fishermen.
President Duterte has yet to make a statement regarding the incident. However, he earlier said that he will go to war against China if any Filipino in the disputed waters gets hurt.