IT WOULD be "imprudent" and "irresponsible" to invoke the the Philippines's Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States over the ramming and abandonment of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese trawler in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday, June 19.
The statement was issued a day after Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the 67-year-old MDT between the Philippines and the United States is the "only weapon in our arsenal," if the tension in the disputed sea escalates over the Recto Bank maritime incident.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that while the Duterte government thanks Lacson for his proposal, it could not act on the issue based on "conjecture, speculation, or even emotion."
"Before we can invoke our Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, there must first be an act of aggression against us. The facts have yet to be established pointing to the incident as an act of aggression by the Chinese government. Moreover, the MDT itself recognizes the primary use of peaceful means in resolving international disputes," he said.
"Thus, invoking the strong medicine of the MDT at this time when facts about the maritime incident in our exclusive economic zone have not yet been firmly established would not only be imprudent, it would be irresponsible as well," the Palace official added.
The MDT, signed between the Philippines and the US in 1951, allows the two countries to assist each other, in case one of them is under armed attack.
Panelo, however, maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte is a "thinking, cautious, and responsible President, and not irrational and reckless as others would paint him - or want him - to be."
"While we understand the emotional outcry of our citizens, we call on everyone to be circumspect in this time of confusion. There will be a time to demand for reparation once the facts have been established," he said.
"The interest of the nation is foremost in his mind when he undertakes an official act vis-à-vis other countries. While others may have the luxury of armchair expertise or backseat driving, the President, as Chief Executive, can ill afford to act on fragmented or incomplete information," he said," he added.
He also reiterated that the government's "immediate" priority is to help the affected 22 fishermen, as well as ensure the safety of the entire Filipino fishermen and the security of all Filipinos.
Panelo likewise guaranteed that the Duterte administration would take "strong" action, if need be.
"The nation can rest assured that the President and the entire Government shall be relentless in its pursuit of justice for our 22 fishermen and that strong action shall be made if and when the same is warranted," he said. (SunStar Philippines)