By Roy Mabasa
United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Patrick Murphy has clarified that there is no request from either Manila or Washington to renegotiate the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) despite “many voices” in the Philippines who are making observations about the accord.
“There is no request from either side to renegotiate the treaty. That said, we have frequent discussions and talks in appropriate channels with appropriate mechanisms on a regular basis about the treaty,” Murphy said during a telephonic interview with international journalists over the weekend.
The State Department official added that both sides remain open “at any time if there’s a mutual conclusion that the treaty needs to have some adjustments or further clarifications.”
“But for the time being, the treaty serves that longstanding purpose of mutual defense for each country, and the extending cooperation that comes from it. I think I will leave it there,” he said.
During the recent visit of State Secretary Michael Pompeo in Manila, Murphy pointed out that the top US diplomat has already made an important clarification on the issue concerning the South China Sea vis-à-vis its relevance to the MDT.
“He (Pompeo) made an important clarification to the Philippines, and made that known publicly, that our view of the MDT is that the South China Sea, for the purposes of the treaty, is part of the Pacific. And therefore, any attack on US or Philippine assets, personnel, in that region would trigger the responsibilities and opportunities that the MDT provides,” Murphy said.
Moreover, Murphy said they have heard from the Philippine government appreciation of Pompeo’s clarification, as well as its own commitment to the treaty, as “a recognition that serves both countries well.”
Only several days after Pompeo’s visit early this month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana renewed his call for a review of the 69-year-old MDT between the Philippines and the US, saying the pact needed to be cleared of “ambiguities” that could cause confusion during a crisis.
Lorenzana stressed that the ambiguities must be cleared to prevent the Philippines from getting embroiled in a war “we do not seek and do not want.”