DFA: Too early to invoke mutual defense treaty

by Feb 17, 2023Featured Article, News

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and a House leader said on Thursday that it might be premature to invoke the activation of the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States following a Chinese vessel’s “military-grade” laser shot at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship in the West Philippine Sea.

Under the 1951 treaty, the United States and the Philippines commit to come to each other’s aid in case of an armed attack on a public vessel, troops or an airship. The US Department of State repeated its “ironclad” commitment this week.

DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said the government was standing by the PCG report that the crew of one of its ships, the BRP Malapascua, suffered temporary blindness for 10 to 15 seconds after a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel twice aimed its laser on the bridge on Feb. 6.

It wasn’t ready to define the Chinese action as an “armed attack.”

The PCG vessel was supporting a Philippine Navy resupply mission to a military outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, well within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The use of the MDT is “being talked about, but whether it is already at that state I think it’s a bit early,” Daza said during a press briefing on Thursday.

She said that discussions within the Philippine government on “when can it be activated is continuing.”

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said early this week that the action by the CCG qualified as an armed attack for which the Philippines could invoke the defense treaty.