Press Release
June 11, 2011


Senator Chiz Escudero cautioned Malacanang against invoking the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in the territorial dispute with the Beijing government without carefully studying its provisions in light of a statement by a Palace aide who said today that Washington will help the country should the row over the Spratly Islands worsens.

The Philippines has been engaged in a word-war with Chinese officials for the past months over several confrontations with Filipinos in the potentially oil-rich group of islands, which is also being claimed in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

"I urge Palace officials to carefully review the MDT and read through its fine prints and get confirmations from the US government through its ambassador if indeed this situation is covered or what the limitations there may be to the application of the MDT from the point of view of the US government," Escudero explained.

The senator, who bats for pursuing and exhausting all diplomatic remedies in the contested islands, also urged Malacanang to assign the Department of Foreign Affairs as the lead agency in discussing this in public "instead of the Palace through its spokesperson in order to avoid any faux pas on our part."

"Any issue or conflict must be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic avenues as stipulated in the ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Seas," the senator said.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said the military is careful not to provoke open hostilities in the Spratlys but is keeping an "active defense posture." Oban admitted though in another statement that the country can do little if China resorts to force to lay its claim on the territory and remained "hopeful that the Americans will not stand aside should the conflict erupts and that they can invoke the MDT with the US." US Ambassador Harry Thomas, while calling for the full implementation of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, however, appealed in Iloilo City for calm and said that Washington takes no side on this issue as stated by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Escudero said that while the country is very well within its rights to protect and defend its territories when bullied, the government should exercise caution in resorting to other measures other than diplomacy.

"I really am hopeful that this issue can be settled without bloodshed. And if at all this should escalate, we really have an ally in the US not only as stipulated in the MDT but as a gesture of long-standing friendship. The last thing we like to see happening is to be encouraged and to be emboldened to fight with an assurance of an ally but find ourselves alone in the field. Only because we did not do our own compliance like checking what we really have in fine prints with the US," Escudero explained.

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