The Philippines is looking to alter its 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) with the US to include its South China Sea claims. However, it is very unlikely America will agree to those terms. China has been involved in multiple disputes with the Philippines, Brunai, Vietnam and Malaysia over the South China Sea but could gain a key strategic ally in Manila if their treaty with America is aborted.
In 2016, Filipino President Rodrigo Détente reflected on the US-Filipino allegiance and claimed that he may indeed break from America, claiming that he would “rather go to Russia or China”.
The Secretary of National Defence for the Philippines, Delfin Lorenzana said: “Is the treaty still relevant to our security? Maybe not.
“When that treaty was negotiated, there was this raging Cold War. But do we still have a Cold War today?
“We are going to approach this MDT, look at it in the backdrop of what’s happening in the area, in the interest of the nation, not the interest of other nations.”
Just two months ago, Mr Détente claimed “China is already in possession of the South China Sea” as he has looked to align the country with Beijing.
Tensions between America and China have skyrocketed over the past few years as China has employed its “nine-dash-line” policy which stakes claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea.
At the centre of the conflict between the Philippines and China is Beijing’s fortification of several islands claimed by the Philippines, specifically, Scarborough Shoal.
US-Filipino and Chinese forces went head to head over the island in 2012 with America eventually retreating and verbally protesting China’s actions with then US President, Barack Obama urging Manilla not to go to war over “a bunch of rocks”.
America’s retreat earned them the reputation as an “unreliable ally”, although the islands were eventually termed a “common fishing ground” by the Permanent Arbitration Court in the Hague.
China has continued to flex its muscles in the region and now has the world’s largest navy in the world with over 300 ships.
The Philippines has looked for support from America but Washington is very wary of being dragged into a war with China.
That refusal to come to the help of an ally could cause America to lose a key strategic presence in the region although the Filipino President has been described as a “loose cannon.”
The news comes as America and China have looked to bring an end to their trade war with both US and international firms being harmed as a result.