Defense Treaty With U.S.: Will It Work Or Is It Just A Scrap Of Paper?

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – China’s aggressive reclamation of some of the choicest islands and islets in the Philippine Western Sea (South China Sea) that are within the territory of the Philippines will test the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 between the United States and the Philippines if it has a teeth or if it is a mere scrap of paper.

If some members of the U.S. Senate really want to serve notice to China that President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” means business, all they need to do is to amend the MDT in such a way that any attack on any side of the Philippines is an attack on the United States.

As the treaty stands, if the Philippines were to turn to Uncle Sam for help to stop China from building its massive infrastructures thinking that President Aquino will not mind the transgressions because President Aquino is preoccupied with how he can stabilize his administration reeling from the Mamasapano Debacle, Uncle Sam has his hands tied behind his back to ever help.

Under the MDT, the U.S. will only come to the aid of the Philippines if a foreign power will attack the Philippine archipelago’s Pacific Ocean side. The 63-year-old military alliance is silent if military help is forthcoming if the former colony is attacked on the western side or on the South China Sea side.

Instead of telling US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter to come up with a “comprehensive strategy,” Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Corker and Democrats Jack Reed and Bob Menendez should introduce an amendment to the MDT that will give muscle to the treaty so that the Philippines can invoke the treaty if it needs the assistance of the U.S. to deter China’s overreach.

If the U.S. Senate will not amend and ratify the treaty, I suggest the Philippines should now rescind this treaty and move on. The Philippines needs a more mature relationship with Uncle Sam.

The first order of business for the Philippine government to do is cut off its diplomatic ties with China and ban Filipinos from traveling to China and ban Chinese tourists from entering the Philippines. These were done by President Roosevelt to Japan when Japan made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor at the outbreak of World War II. Why not do likewise to China, which is intruding in Philippine territory without war declaration?


Then, the Philippines should cut off its economic and commercial ties with China and urge millions of Filipinos all over the world to stop buying Chinese products.

This will serve notice to China that China just cannot do what it wants to the Philippines while China grabs the Philippines’ maritime real estate under its very nose.

By doing so, the Philippines will keep its honor and pride intact even if it lacks China’s military might. China cannot just kick around the Philippines anymore.

The Philippines should never harbor any illusion that the U.S. will ever come to the aid of the Philippines like a damsel in distress waiting for help from a knight in shining armor who will never come!

In 1947, the U.S. and Latin American countries, including Argentina (thanks to the Monroe Doctrine), signed a military alliance shortly after World War II in Rio de Janiero. The alliance later became known as Rio Treaty. It provides that an armed attack against any American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States and each one undertakes to assist in meeting the attack.

I think this treaty is based on the self-preservation motto of the Three Musketeers and D’ Artganan’s “all for one and one for all.”

This treaty was invoked numerous times during the 1950s and 1960s, in particular supporting the United States’ naval blockade unanimously during the Cuban missile crisis. But it did not work as planned.

With the exceptions of Trinidad and Tobago (1967) and the Bahamas (1982), no countries that became independent after 1947 have joined the treaty. (The Philippines became independent from the U.S. in 1946.)

And the last straw that finally broke the camel’s back that made the treaty really toothless was the Falklands War (Malvinas in Spanish).

When Argentina sought the help of the U.S., invoking the Rio Treaty, against Great Britain during the Falklands War in 1982, the U.S., being also a NATO signatory with Great Britain, was placed in an awkward position. The US not only withheld its help to Argentina, it even sided with Great Britain, saying Argentina was the aggressor.


In 2001, the United States invoked the Rio Treaty after the September 11 attacks; however only four Latin American countries (Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and El Salvador), contributed troops to the Iraq War while two others (Colombia and Panama) were members of the “Coalition of the Willing.” The Philippines, of course, did not contribute to the second President Bush’s Iraq War although Bush considered the Philippines as a major “non-NATO ally (MNNA).” Why would the U.S. even help the Philippines in its war against China if the Philippines never volunteered any Philippine troops during the Iraq War?

In September 2002, citing the Falklands example and anticipating the Iraq War, Mexico formally withdrew from the treaty; after the requisite two years, Mexico ceased to be a signatory in September 2004.

As I have been saying, I have been advocating for the Philippines to stop being a satellite of a foreign power because it only finds itself in the losing end.

Remember, during WW II? The Philippines was torn between two superpowers – Japan and America – and it ended up being leveled to the ground. While Korea and Thailand, who stayed neutral or did not put up a fight during WW II, sustained minimum human life and infrastructure damage, compared to the Philippines.

It is not yet too late in the day to join the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which counts 120 members and 17 observers countries. NAM consists of two-thirds of the United Nations’s members, that are trying to be independent, sovereign and exercising territorial integrity in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.”

Super power countries only come to the aid of Third World countries like the Philippines if it is in the super power country’s best interest, not the Third World country.

The recent rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. is clear example that even if you are a poor country and a superpower will try to trample upon you with political and commercial sanctions, you can still survive for more than 50 years and still keep your head and chin high up and gain the respect of the whole world.

If Cuba was able to stand against the United States, the Philippines, which is even bigger than Cuba, can also stand against its giant neighbor, China, and keep its honor and pride intact.

China can keep her Maritime Silk Road, China’s stimulus version of U.S. Marshall Plan, to bolster its military capability in the region. The Philippines will tread the tuwid na daan (straight path)!


You may also like

Leave a Comment