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What’s an attack? Lorenzana wants it defined in PHL-US defense treaty

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday insisted that the country and United States needed to review the Mutual Defense Treaty they signed in 1951.

Lorenzana made the remark after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the treaty obligated the US to aid the Philippines if the latter's forces were attacked in the South China Sea.

The defense chief said the treaty should also define what constituted an attack.

"'Yung sinasabi kasi sa MDT, attack sa West Philippine Sea. Hindi naman tayo in-attack. Nangkuha lang ng island. E, ano 'yun? Saan 'yun? Where will that fall under? Those are the ambiguities," Lorenzana told reporters.

"Hindi violent attack e. Hindi shooting war, kung 'di kamkamin lupa mo... 'Yun 'yung ambiguous sa akin, e," he added. 

Pompeo on Friday said the US would come to the Philippines’ aid if it came under attack in the disputed South China Sea.

He renewed Washington’s commitment to honor a 68-year-old defense treaty that binds America to defend its Asian ally from aggression.

It was the first time that a US government official from the Trump administration clarified that the South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing are locked in years-long territorial row, is covered by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

“As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, republic vessels, in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under article 4 of our MDT,” Pompeo told a joint press conference with Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin in Manila.

Article IV of the MT states that: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

“As an island nation, the Philippines depends on freedom and unrestricted access to the seas. China’s island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, your security and, therefore, economic livelihood as well as that of the United States,” Pompeo said. 

Lorenzana, however, pointed out that the treaty was not ratified by the US Congress.

"It was only signed by their executive so... Basahin niyo yung MDT. Nakalagay duon according to constitutional processes pa," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said the best time for the review of the MDT would have been when the US bases left Clark and Subic in 1991.

"I don't know why it was never revisited and I still believe that the best time to have reviewed the MDT was when the bases of the Americans left the Philippines in the 1990s," Lorenzana said. —NB, GMA News