Lorenzana warns of 'chaos during crisis' with so-called vague US-PH defense treaty

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Philippine marines with the U.S. Joint Rapid Reaction Force conduct an amphibious landing utilizing Philippine logistical navy ships to seize a scenario-based objective as part of Exercise Balikatan 2016, in Antique, Philippines, April 11, 2016.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 5) — A pandemonium could happen if the so-called vague defense treaty between the Philippines and United States remains vague, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana warned on Tuesday.

"I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis. The fact that the security environment now is so vastly different and much more complex than the bipolar security construct of the era when the MDT was written necessitates a review of the Treaty," he said in a statement.

Lorenzana disagreed with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that the country will benefit from the ambiguities in the provisions of the treaty. The nearly 68-year-old agreement states that the Philippines and the U.S. would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force.

Related: Top PH officials disagree on need to review U.S. defense treaty

The Defense Secretary also raised the point that with the MDT, the Philippines will be caught in the middle of the rising tension between U.S. and China caused by Beijing's alleged aggressive militarization and reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

"The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future. But the United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war. In such a case and on the basis of the MDT, the Philippines will be automatically involved," Lorenzana cautioned.

He added, "It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me. It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want."

During the meeting of Locsin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on March 1, the two countries agreed that the review of the treaty requires "further thought." However, Washington's top diplomat assured the U.S. will protect the Philippines in case of an attack in the disputed South China Sea. But Lorenzana is not buying it.

"A couple of years after the US left the bases (in 1992), the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef — not an armed attack — but it was aggression just the same. The U.S. did not stop it," he said.