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Invoking MDT principally a decision by PH, says Teodoro

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said he would not speculate on the conditions when the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States might be invoked, stressing that would be a "political decision ...principally by the Philippine government."

“It would be counterproductive to delve into hypotheticals. As Defense Secretary, I would like to steer away from the discussion on [which] occasions that the MDT may be invoked when our jobs... is to make sure that through capability building, deterrence,  there are no situations when MDT could arise," Teodoro said. 

"We need to assert our rights, but in a manner that safeguards each member of the Philippine Armed Forces, which is the principal actor in the area,” he added.

The Defense chief continued that, invoking the treaty "will be a political decision at the end of the day principally by the Philippine government. I would leave it at that."

Teodoro issued the remarks in a press conference he attended in Hawaii alongside fellow Defense chiefs Lloyd Austin of the United States, Minoru Kihara of Japan, and Richard Marles of Australia.

Teodoro said MDT should not be regarded as a tool to incite fear among countries.

“The talk about the MDT is sometimes also exploited in the international press and sometimes used as a bogeyman in order for our countries bilaterally and multilaterally move forward with legitimate and hardening measures for the Philippines,” he said.

“I would stay away from theoretical and hypothetical talks on the MDT because these are counterproductive,” he added when asked what specific scenarios, like the death of Filipino military personnel, would trigger the invocation of the MDT inked between Manila and Washington in 1951.

Responding to the same query,  Austin said the MDT is not subject to hypothetical scenarios. He also said that the damage to Philippines vessels and injuries to Filipino crew members is "irresponsible behavior."

“Filipino crew members are put in danger, sailors have been injured...and property damage. That is irresponsible behavior. It disregards international law. I would not get into any hypotheticals on what could happen and how it could happen. What I could say is that you heard me say, you heard what the President [Joe Biden] said a number of times: that our commitment to the treaty (MDT) is ironclad and we stand with the Philippines,” Austin said.

Marcos earlier said the Philippines would invoke MDT in the event a Filipino soldier died in the West Philippine Sea. 

Under the MDT between Manila and Washington, 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."

Likewise, the MDT provides that "an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the Island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific."—LDF, GMA Integrated News