After failing to find a friendly comfort in China on the issue of territorial dispute, the Philippine government appeared to have again realized that the United States is indeed its big brother.
On Thursday, April 8, the Department of National Defense (DND) issued a statement praising the US’ admonition to China on the issue of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and even went to the extent of invoking the mutual defense treaty.
“The U.S. admonition to China against the use of force on Philippine public vessels and aircraft, which are performing their constitutional mandate to protect and defend Philippine rights in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, is an additional affirmation of the long-standing partnership between our two countries,” said DND Undersecretary and spokesman Arsenio Andolong in a statement.
“This also demonstrates the strength of our alliance and mutual commitment to promote the rules-based international order,” he added.
The Philippine government became friendly with China since President Duterte assumed the top post in July 2016, with the Chief Executive openly praising China, which he said, would provide multi-billion dollar loans for development projects to the country. But former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said that such promised loans are yet to be realized.
On the other hand, Duterte publicly castigated the United States and even ordered the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
But as China continue to flex its muscles over the South China Sea, defense and security officials began to think twice, starting off with the push to suspend Duterte’s revocation of the VFA with the US.
Last month, the Philippine Coast Guard monitored the presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels swarming the Julian Felipe Reef which prompted the Philippine government to file diplomatic protests and for DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to engage the Chinese in a word war.
On Wednesday, April 7, defense and military officials welcomed the entry of a US carrier strike group amid China’s insistence not to pull out the remaining 44 vessels from the Julian Felipe Reef.
In his statement on Thursday, Andolong also disclosed that the DND has been in talks with the US ‘on the matter of mutual defense.’
“Both parties are committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states' inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively,” said Lorenzana.
“As the situation in the West Philippine Sea evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States. We remain committed to protecting and defending our national interests, while upholding the security and stability in the region through peaceful and rules-based approach,” he added.