Don’t wait for armed aggression before invoking US-PH defense treaty — Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said the government should not wait for armed aggression to happen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) before invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States (US).
Lacson was reacting to the statement of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo that the treaty can only be invoked in case of an “armed attack.”
“That kind of backward thinking by Sec. Nograles and Mr. Panelo is why we are in this situation. We should not wait for an armed aggression against our vessels to occur before we invoke the treaty,” Lacson said in a statement.
“Proactive thinking by way of increased US presence in the area is logical because of the prevailing situation in the West Philippine Sea. As I said, what we are trying to accomplish is balance of power,” the senator added.
Lacson said the ramming incident between a Filipino vessel and a Chinese vessel served as an “eye opener” on the possibility of an armed conflict between the Philippines and China.
“Nevertheless, as a result of the Reed Bank incident, the Mutual Defense Treaty can be used as a proactive and preemptive measure to justify US presence in order to avert whatever possible armed hostilities that could take place in the West Philippine Sea,” Lacson said.
“As I said earlier, the incident last week has already happened. But it serves as an eye opener for possible armed confrontation between our Armed Forces of the Philippines or Coast Guard and the Chinese military,” he added.
The senator said the presence of US military in the WPS would aid in balancing power.
“As I said in my tweet, I am not praying for World War III, but at least a strong presence of the US Pacific fleet in the WPS can make China feel the balance of power in that area,” Lacson reiterated.
Treaty with US is only ‘weapon’ in PH arsenal, says Lacson
Nograles on Tuesday said the defense treaty between the Philippines and the US may only be invoked in case of an “armed attack.”
“[The] MDT can only be used if there is an armed attack on a public vessel, on troops, on an airship. That’s when the MDT takes effect,” Nograles told reporters in Malacañang.
Panelo echoed this, saying invoking the MDT would mean “jumping to a conclusion” since the ramming incident in the WPS is still being probed.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called the incident a “little maritime accident” and asked the Navy and the troops to “stay out of trouble.”
“Just build on our own. Huwag muna tayong makialam (Let’s not meddle),” Duterte said in a speech at the 121st Philippine Navy anniversary. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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