MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's latest remark on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty remains to be sarcasm, Malacañang said Thursday.
In Pastor Apollo Quiboloy's "Give Us This Day" television program, the president called on the United States and said he was invoking the defense pact.
"I would like America to gather all their 7th Fleet in front of China. I'm asking them now. I will join them," Duterte said.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president was aware that the treaty cannot be invoked without any armed attack against the Philippines or the United States.
"He kept on saying that by way of putting into absurdity the criticism by the critics and detractors," Panelo said in a press briefing.
According to Panelo, Duterte was just challenging his critics to go with him to the West Philippine Sea in case of any armed attack.
In the same television program, Duterte said he will bring Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on a US ship, implying that the fighting would start then.
Carpio and Del Rosario, both part of the Philippine delegation in the South China Sea arbitration, have been urging the Duterte administration to invoke the arbitral ruling that invalidated China's expansive claims over the disputed waterway.
"It is a challenge to them… to show the absurdity of their position that we should be aggressively enforicng the arbitral ruling when the very effective method of gettong whatever benefits can achieve from arbitral ruling could be gotten in the diplomatic negotiations," Panelo said.
In March, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Philippines that any armed attack on Philippine forces in the West Philippine Sea will trigger the MDT.
Under Article 4 of the 1951 MDT, "Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes."
During the commemoration of the third anniversary of the arbitral ruling last week, Carpio said Duterte's claim that enforcing the ruling means going to war with China was false.
Carpio pointed out that under the 1987 Constitution, the Philippines renouncers war as an instrument of policy.
"Thus, it is obvious that the only purpose of raising the specter of war is to scare the Filipino people to submit to China," Carpio said.
Del Rosario, on the other hand, said war is not a good option for Beijing as its economy relies on global trade which needs open shipping lanes, which are dominated by US naval power.
"With the recent clearer security guarantee definition provided by the US, it may not be necessary therefore to shrink to China's threat of war," Del Rosario said.
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