National Security Adviser Secretary Clarita Carlos on Tuesday said a study group has been formed to review the country’s 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.

Interviewed on Dobol B TV, Carlos said the study group is composed of the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of National Defense (DND), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),

“Binigyan na kami ng directive ng Presidente. Ako ang magle-lead noon.The NSC, the DND, and the DFA nag-form na kami ng study group para talagang malinaw ito at ma-review,” she said.

(The President already gave us a directive. I will lead this. The NSC, the DND, and the DFA, we already formed a study group that will clarify and review the MDT.)

According to Carlos, there is no automaticity under the MDT for either of the countries to extend assistance in case of an attack to the other. She said this still has to undergo constitutional processes.

“They will go through their constitutional processes. Ibig sabihin yung Kongreso nila, yung Presidente nila [It means it’s up to their Congress, their President],” she said.

The Philippines also needs to review the MDT considering that its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, which is envisioned to advance the implementation of the MDT, is up for termination or renewal in April 2023, Carlos said.

During her courtesy call on Marcos at Malacañag on Monday, visiting US Vice President Kamala Harris said attacks made against Philippine forces in the South China Sea will invoke the US mutual defense promises.

Under the Duterte administration, then-Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a review of MDT, citing new regional security challenges and China’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea, including in areas that belong to the Philippines.

According to Lorenzana, this is to ensure that the two countries could better respond to China’s “grey zone” and “cabbage” tactics of aggressively pressing its claims over the waters, where Chinese maritime militia have been intimidating smaller claimants. —KBK, GMA Integrated News