Scrapping Mutual Defense Treaty with U.S. an option – Lorenzana

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Filipino and American soldiers in a joint military training activity.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 28) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday he had asked government lawyers to study the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States in preparation for a possible review of the agreement.

In a Malacañang press briefing, Lorenzana said the government had three options after the review: "Maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it."

The 67-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.

Article 8 of the MDT also states that, "This Treaty shall remain in force indefinitely. Either Party may terminate it one year after notice has been given to the other party."

Lorenzana, however, clarified that a review of the treaty was just his idea. Earlier this month, he said the MDT should be reviewed "to make it stronger" and clarify if the West Philippine Sea is covered by the treaty.

READ: DND eyes review of Mutual Defense Treaty with U.S.  

"That was done in 1951.  There was a raging cold war. May Cold War noon e. Do we still have Cold War today? Is it still relevant to our security? Baka hindi na (It may no longer be)," he noted in the briefing. "Wala naman tayo sigurong kalaban na sasakupin tayo e (No country is trying to invade us)."

The Philippines is concerned about rising tension between the U.S. and China in the disputed South China Sea – which could endanger security in the country and the region.

"There was this near collision between two destroyers in the Spratlys. Eh kung magputukan yan? (What if shots are fired?) We will be involved because yung MDT natin is - 'attack on one is attack on the other,' so ma-involve tayo diyan (so we would be involved)," Lorenzana said.

Although the U.S. is not a claimant country in the maritime dispute, it conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in international waters around the contested area and calls out China's alleged militarization in the region.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in 2016 recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, or the West Philippine Sea. But China rejected the landmark ruling and continued to claim almost the entire waterway.