Lorenzana renews call for review of Mutual Defense Treaty with US

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9)— Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has renewed his call for a review of the Philippines' Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, citing the need to ensure the 1951 agreement's relevance in present times.

In an event organized Wednesday by Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Lorenzana said the alliance between the two countries "will have to evolve in recognition of new geopolitical realities."

"Much is to be desired in terms of the 70-year-old alliance, given what is happening in the South China Sea and beyond, not to mention the Philippines' commitment to cultivate a more balanced relations with other countries in the region," Lorenzana said.

"What is clear is that we need a comprehensive review of our alliance, taking stock of the pros and cons of the MDT and what happened in the past 70 years," he added.

The MDT states that both countries would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force.

But in 2018, Lorenzana sought a review of the pact, saying it does not provide a clear answer to whether the US would come to the Philippines' rescue in case tensions escalate in the South China Sea.

READ: PH, US in 'low-level discussion' on reviewing Mutual Defense Treaty

In his visit to the Philippines last July, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin assured Manila that Washington's security commitment is "iron-clad" and the treaty would also extend to matters involving the disputed waters.

How to upgrade PH-US alliance?

Lorenzana also presented three proposals on how to upgrade the Philippine-US alliance:

- Reiteration and further clarification of the precise extent of American commitments to the Philippines under the MDT, and in accordance with the 2016 arbitral tribunal award at the Hague;

- Revisions and additions in MDT and other relevant Philippine-US defense agreement to ensure maximum cooperation and interoperability to deal with so-called "gray zone" threats (state-sanctioned/supported maritime militia forces intimidating smaller claimant states and their fishermen); and

- Support for the Philippines' modernization program to make it a "more reliable and dependable ally to the United States."