PH-US defense pact doesn’t apply in Spratlys dispute, says ex-UP law dean
The Philippine-US mutual defense pact will not apply in the country’s dispute with China over potentially oil-rich isles in the West Philippine (South China) Sea, a former University of the Philippines (UP) law dean said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a forum in UP Diliman, Quezon City, Pacifico Agabin said a reading of the “fine print” of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty would show that the United States would not automatically come to the defense of the Philippines in case of hostilities with China.
“If you read the fine print of the treaty, we’ll see that the US assurances that they are with us are ‘purely illusory’,” he said.
Article IV of the treaty says that in case of an armed attack in the Pacific, either party would act “to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
Agabin said “constitutional processes” means the US president must first consult with Congress before “introducing” the US Armed Forces into any hostility.
Not being a “self-executing treaty,” the 1951 pact is not binding on the US unless its Congress “decides to give it life” by enacting an implementing law, Agabin said.
China and the Philippines are among six Asian countries claiming ownership, wholly or in part, of the Spratly islands, thought to be rich in oil and minerals.
Agabin said to be armed in preparation for hostilities was the assurance the Philippines could get from the US.
“I don’t think the US will send its troops in case of hostilities with China,” Agabin said.
Speaking before the Management Association of the Philippines on Tuesday, US Ambassador in Manila Harry Thomas Jr. reaffirmed his country’s long-standing alliance with the Philippines.
Thomas also said that no less than President Barack Obama had named the Philippines as one of four nations that would receive enhanced economic support in the coming years, including military hardware.
“We stand by our commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said, adding: “Standing by your friends—that’s integrity. That’s the principle we uphold.”
Thomas pointed out that the Philippines had received more military aid from the US than any other nation in Southeast Asia over the last decade and will likely continue to do so in the near future. With a report from Daxim L. Lucas
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