DND Secretary Lorenzana says war in West Philippine Sea ‘unlikely’

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Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated on Wednesday that he does not envision any conflicts breaking out in the West Philippine Sea, despite increased exercises between the Philippines and the United States and its partners in the region.

“There is a provision in the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) that an attack to another is considered an attack to the other side. So the other country will come to the aid of the other country. But, even if there are intensifying exercises between the US and its allies in the region, ay hindi naman ako naniniwala na ito ay paghahanda para sa isang giyera dito sa South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Kasi both countries, both superpowers, the US and China, (have) come out publicly that they do not want any conflict there in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea),” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the Pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Forum for the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster on Wednesday.

He was replying to questions about whether the Philippines would honor the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States if a regional conflict erupted.

The MDT, which was signed in 1951, says that if either the Philippines or the United States were attacked by an external entity, they would help each other.

According to Lorenzana, conflicts are unlikely because West Philippine Sea is a significant shipping route to China.

“And according to (the) World Bank, more than US$6 trillion worth of goods passes that place, the South China Sea, every year,” Lorenzana said.

The Philippines, on the other hand, can comply by the MDT, according to the DND head, but any decision to use it will be closely investigated by lawmakers.

“We will abide by the MDT dahil treaty yun ng bansa natin (with the US) and I’m sure any incident there that will require the invocation of (the) MDT will go through the process here in our legislature, our government, before we participate in any conflict in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea),” Lorenzana said.

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