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Roque: Terminate RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty

Harry Roque

UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque said the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) that the Philippines entered into with the United States in 1951 is a dead treaty because it no longer serves the country’s national interest.

“The Mutual Defense Treaty is a dead treaty because when China took away two of our islands in the Kalayaan Group of Islands, the US did not come to our aid,” Roque said.

“If indeed the US is bound by the treaty, how come the Philippines failed to receive any military assistance from them when we lost the Panganiban Reef in 1995 and the Panatag Shoal in 2012?” he asked.

Roque recommended the termination of the treaty as it has become ‘passe’ concerning the prevailing domestic priorities and foreign policy.

He said the country’s main political and socio-economic thrusts center on achieving national prosperity, peace, and stability for all Filipinos.

Under the MDT, both the Philippines and the United States are obliged to defend themselves against external armed attacks in the Pacific area and strengthen their collective defense for regional peace and security.

Roque pointed out that the treaty’s lack of ‘automaticity,’ which precludes both countries from automatically defending each other in case of an armed attack, is disadvantageous to the country.

Roque asked, “Do we want this kind of bilateral security agreement where the US would only act if a military conflict in the Pacific region is aligned or favorable to their national interests?”

Citing the doctrine of “rebus sic stantibus” (things standing thus) in international law, Roque said a fundamental change in circumstances could be used as a ground to terminate a treaty.

“When the Philippines signed this treaty in 1951, we were under a bipolar world order of the US and the former Soviet Union,” Roque said. “This is no longer the case as both the world and our country have tremendously evolved in the 21st century.”

He continued: “The government’s priority is to lift most Filipinos out of poverty and secure their economic well-being. It is fundamental for the state to safeguard their right to life and right to health at all times.”

Article 4 of the MDT states that “each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the parties would be dangerous to its peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes…”

On the other hand, Article 5 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 the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

In 1995, China annexed the Panganiban Reef, known as the Mischief Reef, located about 130 nautical miles west of Palawan province.

In 2012, the Philippines engaged China in a maritime standoff with China over the Panatag Shoal, about 120 nautical miles from Zambales province.

China has since maintained its military presence on the shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Mansinloc.

Both reef and shoal are part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands or the Spratlys.

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei have conflicting sovereignty claims in the West Philippine Sea.


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