The United States said it is committed to working with the Philippines in ensuring it has the capabilities to defend its interests against the backdrop of a rapid-changing security environment in the region.
“What we are seeing across the region and in the South China Sea are persistent actions that create a new threat to sovereignty and economic security,” said Ambassador Jennifer Galt, senior foreign policy advisor to the US Indo-Pacific Command, at a forum hosted by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) on Thursday.
“The United States is committed to working alongside the Philippines to ensure you have the necessary capabilities to defend your interests and to ensure collectively that our alliance has the capability to address new threats and challenges in the security environment,” she added.
She said the two nations are currently working on a “joint vision statement” that would outline new priorities for the next phase of the US-Philippines alliance cooperation.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Galt said the US looks forward to “even more robust ties” as she highlights the “highly relevant” relationship of Manila and Washington DC today.
“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the MDT, we are on a positive path forward and the future of the alliance is bright,” she said.
In the same forum, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Washington DC is also open to the idea of revisiting the MDT, a move supported by Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez who sought for a “refresh” in the Philippine-US defense alliance if it is to keep with the times.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, believes it is the parties’ actual political will and commitment that will make the MDT effective and credible, especially in the South China Sea.
He said the two nations must be able to clearly convey the message of enforcing the MDT to a third part aggressor in order to lessen the risk of a conflict.
“[W]e are of the view that the MDT can be made relevant in the South China Sea without the need of formal re-negotiation as to its text. The Philippines and the US need to continue their security dialogue to reach a common understanding on how the MDT will be applied in particular situations,” he said.
The 1951 MDT is the country’s oldest defense pact with another nation.
The Department of National Defense first floated the review calls in December 2018, citing the need to make the deal more relevant to the region’s changing security environment.