The visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the United States produced several firsts in terms of presidential visits to another country and in relation to national security. First and probably the most significant of these accomplishments have to do with the issuance of guidelines relative to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the United States (US) and the Philippines signed way back in 1951. That’s right, after more than seventy years the MDT is finally getting an upgrade.

This would not have happened obviously if China, in the wider scope of things, did not lay claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the country appropriated dubbed as the West Philippine sea, and appropriating it as part of its territory under its nine-dash line theory.

Another is its declaration that in the very near future it will take back the democratic state of Taiwan because of its persistent belief that the little island is a part of its territory and therefore under its sovereignty despite the fact that the people of Taiwan seem to have no desire whatsoever to join their Chinese brethren in the mainland.  These are the two factors, from a geopolitical standpoint, which necessitated and compelled the US and the country to update their bilateral defense agreement by coming up with new guidelines which aims to modernize and strengthen the alliance of both countries.

More importantly the new guidelines clearly expand and define how the US will honor its commitment to defend the country in case it is attacked by another state such as, of course, China. In the six page guidelines we find there in (16) “The United States and the Philippines re-affirm the
importance of the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea”.  Now we know that back in July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a ruling “adjudicating the Philippines’ case against China in the South Sea ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines, determining major elements of China’s claim – including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters – were unlawful”.

China has probably already read the entire new guidelines of the MDT and already recognizes that a
warning has just been declared against it particularly when it concerns its continuing activities in the South China Sea especially in areas declared as the EEZ of the country. Now if that warning against China is not enough there is letter (f) of the MDT guidelines which state, “Endeavor to build
interoperability and cooperation in both conventional and nonconventional domains while taking into account asymmetric, hybrid, and irregular warfare and gray-zone tactics as well as artificial intelligence and other emerging technology areas;”.

For those not familiar with the so called “gray-zone tactics” one need only to understand its
definition which “relates to the use of non-military means – below the threshold of armed conflict – to achieve political objectives. Grey zone confrontation is the dangerous ‘grey’ area between peace and war”, to realize that China has been doing this continually when it utilizes its many maritime
militia boats to intimidate, deter and harass Philippine fishermen from entering their fishing
grounds well within the country’s EEZ.

The recent confrontation that happened between two vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and a Chinese navy ship which crossed path with the two Philippine boats at Pag-asa Island along the disputed Spratly Islands is one such instance of a so called “grayzone tactic” deliberately employed by the Chinese coast guard to intimidate Philippine coast guard boats. But with this upgrade of the MDT thru the new guidelines the US and of course the country is sending a loud
and strong signal to China that its bullying days in the South China Sea are at an end.

Amianan Balita Ngayon