MDT is ‘inutile’: No US aid when PH islands occupied – Roque
MANILA, Philippines — The Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines is “inutile” and should be reexamined, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a video uploaded on Tuesday on the YouTube channel of the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI).
“I think the Mutual Defense Treaty — because the conditions by which we adopted the Mutual Defense Treaty are no longer in existence — should also be reexamined in this regard. Now, having said that, the Mutual Defense Treaty has also proven to be inutile because twice we have lost islands, and the United States did not come to our rescue,” Roque said.
“We lost Mischief Reef. We lost Panatag Shoal. And yet despite the fact that it is very clearly stated that when there is an armed attack on any of our territories, the US should come to our assistance, the United States failed to do so. So if the Mutual Defense Treaty has proven inutile in protecting the integrity of our territory, what is the point of the Mutual Defense Treaty?” he said.
Chinese construction on an island at Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea started as early as the mid-1990s.
Panatag Shoal was the scene of a standoff in 2012 when Benigno Aquino III was president, the predecessor of Rodrigo Duterte, for whom Roque served as spokesperson.
Roque, a lawyer specializing in international law and human rights, said the treaty, which was signed in 1951 and ratified in 1952, should be reviewed to determine if it would still benefit the Philippines.
He also pointed out that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which the US and the Philippines signed in 2014, would expire in 2023.
“And therefore, we need now a vigorous national debate on whether or not we should in fact renew the EDCA,” Roque said.
Activists and some questioned the constitutionality of the EDCA, which allows US troops to use Philippine bases. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled with finality to reaffirm the constitutionality of the agreement.
But in the IDSI video uploaded on Tuesday, Roque insisted that he had always believed the EDCA to be unconstitutional.
So he urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to scrap the agreement, Roque said it was implemented without being duly concurred in by the Philippine Congress and without a referendum to determine if Filipinos agreed with it.
He said, however, that scrapping both EDCA and the MDT would place the Marcos presidency in jeopardy.
“The President already has had personal knowledge of what the United States can do. They [the Marcos family] were spirited away from the Philippines in 1986 under the pretense that they were going to be brought to Ilocos. The Americans can remove the president if he will move to remove EDCA and the MDT at the same time,” Roque said.
Roque was referring to the ouster of Marcos’ father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., in the February 1086 People Power Revolt. Over the years, the Marcoses have insisted that they did not want to leave the country. They said their instruction to the US Air Force pilot was to take them to Paoay, Ilocos Norte. The pilot instead brought them to Hawaii.
“So my humble suggestion is, to ensure that the Americans will not view the president as antagonistic to American interests, for now, let us keep the MDT. I think the Americans would accept if we were to terminate EDCA but retain MDT,” Roque said.
He also warned that if the Philippines would allow the US to store weapons in its territory and if these were to be used in confrontations against China, then the Philippines becomes a hard target for Chinese retaliation.
“Unless it is our national interest to engage in war with China just because the Americans want to ensure their hegemony in the area, there is no utility to have the EDCA beyond 2023,” Roque said.
Roque spoke about these issues just as US Vice President Kamala Harris was visiting the Philippines to reaffirm ties and express support for the country’s security problems.
Many view Harris’ visit — which included a trip to Palawan, the province nearest to the West Philippine Sea — as an indication the US intends to defend the Philippines, its long-time ally, from Chinese incursion.
During Harris’ visit, there were discussions about putting more EDCA sites in the country, possibly including two in Palawan.
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