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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Ironclad commitment

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The reaffirmation by Washington and Manila of their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 is heartening, after China’s latest aggressive action during a routine resupply mission to the Filipinos at the Ayungin Shoal this week.

The reaffirmation was made Friday during a conference call between Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in Manila and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Washington, DC.

A joint statement said the two defense chiefs discussed the incident on Sunday at the Ayungin Shoal, only 200 kilometers off Palawan, particularly China’s “dangerous and unlawful maneuvers that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, putting the safety of Philippine vessels and crew at risk.”

It is consoling that in the same phone call, Austin reinforced Washington’s support for Manila after the Ayungin Shoal incident, which has raised the level of tension in the region.

“The Secretaries reaffirmed that the MDT extends to both countries’ public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces – to include the Coast Guard – anywhere in the Pacific to include the South China Sea,” the joint statement added.

The MDT, signed on August 30, 1951 by their representatives in Washington, DC, has eight articles and requires both nations to support each other if another party attacks the Philippines or the United States.

There have been increased concerns among neighboring countries, with China making aggressive territorial claims and deploying military assets to disputed islands in the South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea, with Beijing’s mythical Ten-Dash Line which practically gobbles up the whole South China Sea.

Such concerns have escalated since the Philippines-China standoff at Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

“Secretary Austin reiterated his commitment to the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific is ironclad,” the statement said.

Both Teodoro and Austin commended the military cooperation between Manila and Washington, including the bilateral sail last month off the coast of Palawan and committed to increasing the pace and scope of US-Philippines engagements.

We are buoyed up that in face of China’s assertiveness, the United States has reiterated its commitment to the Philippines and its willingness to defend the country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea.


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