MALACAÑANG on Thursday, July 18, merely branded President Rodrigo Duterte's invocation of the Philippines's Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US) as "sarcasm."
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo believes Duterte only wanted to emphasize the "absurdity" of critics' call on the President to invoke the defense pact between Manila and United States to ease tensions in the disputed South China Sea.
"He (Duterte) knows that you cannot invoke that treaty without any armed assault or attack against any of the parties in that treaty," Panelo told Palace reporters.
"He kept on saying that by way of putting into absurdity the criticism by the critics and detractors, and challenging them that in the event of any armed attack and the treaty will be operational, then these critics and detractors [whom] the President has named should go with him in defending the West Philippine Sea," he added.
Amid the rising tensions between the Philippines and China in the hotly-contested South China Sea, Duterte urged the US on Wednesday, July 17, to deploy its Seventh Fleet in the busy waterway.
The President made the pronouncement, as he announced that he is now invoking the 68-year-old mutual defense deal between Manila and Washington.
He also issued the statement after receiving heavy backlash for his alleged leniency toward China, despite Beijing's activities in the disputed sea and even in the Philippine waters.
Asked if Duterte's latest statement remains to be a sarcasm, Panelo said: "It is, and [is] a challenge to them (critics)."
Panelo insisted that the long-standing disputes between Manila and Beijing can only be resolved through diplomatic negotiations and not through aggressive approach.
"Again, as I said, to show the absurdity of their position that we should be aggressively enforcing the arbitral ruling when the very effective method of getting whatever benefits we can achieve from the arbitral ruling could be gotten in the diplomatic negotiations," he said. (SunStar Philippines)