Locsin: No need to review US-PH Defense Treaty

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2019   •   2628

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodor Locsin Jr. And U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, prior to their meeting at the DFA Office in Pasay City, Philippines. Secretary Pompeo is on an official visit to the Philippines. / DFA photo by Clark Galang

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. believes that there is no need to review the United States’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.

In a report on UNTV News and Rescue’s Ito Ang Balita by Nel Maribojoc, Locsin cited an “old theory of deterrence” in support of his opinion against reviewing the 68-year old defense deal during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Pasay City on Friday (March 1).

Locsin also expressed confidence in the repeated assurances of the US that it would assist the Philippines in case of an act of aggression.

“In vagueness lies the best deterrence. I don’t believe that going down into the details is the way the sincerity of the American commitment will be shown. They will respond, depending on the circumstances, ” he said.

Locsin, however, acknowledged that the proposal to review the treaty between Manila and Washington “requires further thought.”

It can be recalled that in 2018, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sought a review of the 1951 US-PHL Mutual Defense Treaty over its relevance, given the Philippines’ dispute with China in the South China Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte, in the past several occasions, has also expressed doubt if the U.S. would ever come to the country’s aid against China’s growing aggression in the disputed territories.

Pompeo, meanwhile, assured the Philippines that the Mutual Defense Treaty would cover the South China Sea, where China reclaimed some reefs and built artificial islands.

Under the accord, the two countries will support each other in case of attack by an external party in the pacific region.

“China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threatened your sovereignty, security, and economic livelihood, as well as the United States. As the South China Sea is the part of the pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft , or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Pompeo said.

Malacañang, on the other hand, still wants to pursue the proposal for review despite the assurance given by Pompeo.

“I’m sure the Secretary of Defense, Lorenzana would want to review despite the pronouncement. There may be some kinks in that treaty that needs to be clarified. So, I think there is still a need to review despite the policy statement. We will have to evaluate,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during an interview with Malacanang reporters on Friday.

Meanwhile, Washington’s top diplomat also committed to support the Philippine Armed Forces modernization program and strengthen the two countries’ cooperation in combating terrorism and illegal drug trade.

After meeting DFA Sec. Locsin, Pompeo met with a group of Filipino business leaders and visited the US Embassy in Manila before leaving the Philippines. – Robie de Guzman

DFA reiterates warning vs online job offers in Iraq

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday reminded the public that the deployment ban to Iraq has not been lifted, reiterating its warning to Filipinos against online announcements for job offers in the Middle Eastern country.

The DFA issued the statement after some online announcements claim that the existing ban on deployment to Iraq has been lifted.

Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Governing Board Resolution No. 6, s. 2018, which suspends the deployment of newly hired workers bound for Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, remains in effect,” the DFA said in a statement.

“Furthermore, household workers who are already based in Iraq are also banned from returning to Iraq should they go on vacation to the Philippines,” it added.

The DFA further warned all Filipino travelers that Iraq imposes hefty penalties for persons without the proper visas or with expired visas.

“Filipinos who are temporarily vacationing in Iraq or are residing and working before the deployment ban are advised to take note of their visa validity dates,” it said.

The DFA also reminded Filipinos to take note of the following early warning signs of human trafficking if they receive job offers overseas:

  • applicants do not possess their own identification documents such as IDs or passports;
  • passports are confiscated;
  • applicants are advised to inform authorities that they are just visiting a particular city, like Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok;
  • applicants are advised of particular immigration lanes to choose or given nonverbal cues to lookout for during departure from Clark Airport or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport;
  • agency has no permanent address; and
  • agents do not reveal their full names and contact details.

The department also advised the public to comply with pre-departure formalities being implemented by Philippine immigration authorities.

“These formalities are intended to ensure the safety of Filipino travelers and prevent the occurrence of illegal recruitment, people smuggling, and human trafficking cases,” the DFA said.

Joana Demafelis’ employer found guilty of murder

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The female employer of Filipino household worker Joana Demafelis has been found guilty of murder by the Syrian District Criminal Court, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs reported that Mouna Ali Hassoun was handed the guilty verdict for the killing of Demafelis, whose remains were found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait in February 2018.  

Hassoun was in Syria where she had been in custody since last year.

Her Lebanese husband, Nader Essam Assaf, is also facing a murder charge in Lebanon.

Demafelis was reported missing in 2016. Kuwaiti authorities discovered her remains inside a freezer where she was believed to have been kept for more than a year.

Based on the autopsy report, Demafelis suffered internal bleeding and sustained several broken bones.

The discovery of her remains prompted the previous deployment ban of new Filipino workers to Kuwait.

“DFA will continue to provide legal assistance to the family until justice is served,” the department said.

DFA: Tugboat manned by Filipino crew seized in Persian Gulf

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 9, 2019

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that a tugboat manned by 12 Filipino crew was seized in the Persian Gulf due to alleged oil smuggling.

Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo C. Santos said the tugboat was seized on September 7 and that an investigation is on-going.

“He [Santos] said that Coast Guard authorities relayed that an investigation is on going on the alleged oil smuggling of the crew, and once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court,” the DFA bulletin reads.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Department is awaiting further updates on the issue including the condition of the 12 seafarers. The department is also prepared to provide assistance when needed.—AAC

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