MANILA, Philippines — On the Day of Valor, Senator Richard Gordon described the United States’ reaffirmation of its obligation under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines as “very reassuring” and “timely” in light of the continued presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.
“I find it significant, very reassuring and timely today’s statement of the US State Department reiterating the provision of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty that ‘an armed attack against the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the treaty,” Gordon said in his Day of Valor message.
“Surely an overwhelming number of Filipinos, myself included, welcome this strong statement of support from the United States, a long-time friend and ally, home to many transplanted Filipinos, and a fellow believer in democratic principles and international law,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and US State Secretary Antony Blinken discussed concerns on Chinese ships’ continued presence at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea during a phone call on Friday.
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Blinken, according to US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, “reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea.”
“These are difficult and trying times for our country faced with threats to our sovereignty and national health. We are grateful for the assistance offered by friends and allies but we as a people and our leaders must rise to the occasion by doing our part,” Gordon went on.
Meanwhile, the senator proposed that the Philippines take “concrete and immediate measures to address the threat to our country’s sovereignty.”
VFA left ‘hanging’
He cited the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which he said “is [left] hanging when a certain degree of certainty is needed in these crucial times.”
“It is an essential component for the full implementation of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty. [President Rodrigo Duterte] ordered our withdrawal from the VFA. Then after the first notice of withdrawal and the subsequent ‘urong-sulong’ sequence, the VFA is kept hanging when a certain degree of certainty is needed in these crucial times,” the senator said.
“We should also look into having more and increased level of military exercises with our allies to improve our defense capabilities,” he added.
The VFA, which became effective in 1999, provides a mechanism for American soldiers and acts as the basis for military drills and humanitarian work.
In February year, the President withdrew from the VFA. However, the process of terminating the VFA has been postponed twice, once in June 2020 and again in November 2020.
Officials from the Philippines and the US had a scheduled meeting last February to iron out the two countries’ differences over the VFA.
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