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Is America a reliable ally?

June 26, 2024

MANILA – In his recent keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, President Marcos expressed his opposition to any “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions [which] continue to violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction” in the West Philippine Sea. Although he didn’t directly name China, everyone in the room, including the large Chinese military/troll army delegation was keenly aware of Mr. Marcos’ reference point.

In response to a Chinese military officer, who tried to grill the President with a toxic cocktail of strategic gaslighting and run-of-the-mill propaganda, Mr. Marcos warned that “[i]f a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is I think a very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly.”

Moreover, he implied that Washington would likely come to the Philippines’ rescue in such eventuality under the terms of the Philippine-United States Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). But when pressed on the matter, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III largely demurred during his own address at Asia’s premiere defense dialogue. Instead of squarely standing by the Philippines, he simply resorted to the “iron-clad commitment” platitude and refused to engage in any “hypothetical” scenarios.

To be fair, the US defense chief’s priority was to reestablish communication channels with Beijing following his first-ever formal meeting with his Chinese counterpart in years. But at this point, it was clear to everyone in the room that the maritime disputes were entering a particularly troubling phase, with the prospect of armed conflict becoming far from just hypothetical.

The past year alone saw Chinese maritime forces deploying