Mutual Defense Treaty (U.S.–Philippines)

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Philippines – United States Mutual Defense Treaty relations
Map indicating locations of Philippines and USA


United States

The Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America was signed on August 30, 1951 in Washington, D.C. between representatives of the Philippines and the United States. The overall accord contained eight articles and dictated that both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the United States were to be attacked by an external party.

Brief history[edit]

Admiral Dewey as he appears at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

After Admiral George Dewey's defeat of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in May 1898, the U.S. occupied the Philippines. In the terms of the Treaty of Paris which officially ended the Spanish–American War Spain ceded the islands to the United States. A war of revolution which had been waged during the final decades of Spanish rule in the Philippines was reignited after the transition of power from Spain to the United States as the Philippine–American War.[note 1] The resistance to U.S. Rule led by revolutionary General Emilio Aguinaldo. During this war, fighting and disease claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos and thousands of Americans. After Aguinaldo was captured in 1901 and swore allegiance to the United States, resistance gradually died out until the conflict officially ended with a unilateral peace proclamation by the U.S. on July 4, 1902. Armed resistance continued sporadically until 1913, however, especially among the Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu.[2]

Five years after the end of the resistance movement and the peace proclamation of 1902 the first bicameral legislative body was elected in 1907. Coinciding with the establishment of the legislature, a civil service was formed under the guidance of the U.S. and was gradually taken over by the Filipinos. By the end of the first world war the Filipinos had established control over their own civil services. Shortly thereafter the Catholic Church was largely disestablished and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed.[2]

USS Olympia entering Manila Bay.

The U.S. passed the Tydings–McDuffie Act on March 24, 1934, during the interwar years in the midst of the Great Depression.[3] In 1935, under the terms of that act, the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel Quezon was the first elected president of the new commonwealth. Under Quezon's administration, the new Philippine commonwealth was tasked with preparing their country for eventual independence from the United States after a 10 year transition period. However, the Empire of Japan attacked the Philippines in December 1941 bringing World War II to the Philippines.[2]

In May 1942 the remaining U.S. and Filipino forces on Corregidor surrendered to the Japanese and with it, the Philippines. U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur landed on the island of Leyte on October 20, 1944 to retake the islands. During the war, Filipinos and Americans fought side by side to retake the islands. The fighting continued until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.[2]

Captured Japanese photograph. U.S. soldiers and sailors surrendering to Japanese forces at Corregidor, Philippine... - NARA - 531354

As a result of the Japanese invasion and occupation and the battles of liberation, climaxing in the 1945 Battle of Manila, the Philippines suffered tremendous damage which resulted in a complete organizational breakdown of government and civil services. In total, an estimated one million Filipinos lost their lives resisting the Japanese. Despite the shaken state of the country, the United States and the Philippines decided to continue with their initial plans for independence as stipulated in 1934 in accordance with the terms of the Tydings–McDuffie Act. On July 4, 1946, the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands officially became the Republic of the Philippines.[2]

After World War II, mutual defense treaties were drafted and ratified between the United States and several key Asian allies in efforts to limit the spread of communism in the 1950s.[4]


The Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America was signed on August 30, 1951 in Washington, D.C. between representatives of the Philippines and the United States.[5] The overall accord contained eight articles and dictated that both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the United States were to be attacked by an external party.[5]

As stated in article one of the treaty each party is to settle international disputes in a peaceful manner so that the international peace is not threatened and to refrain from the threat of the use of force in any manner that is inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.[5] Article II states that each party either separately or jointly through mutual aid may acquire, develop and maintain their capacity to resist armed attack. Article III states that from time to time the parties will consult one another through the use of their secretaries of state, foreign ministers or consuls in order to determine the appropriate measures of implementation.[5] The parties will also consult one another when either of the party determines that their territorial integrity, political independence or national security is threatened by armed attack in the Pacific.[5] Article four states that an attack on either party will be acted upon in accordance with their constitutional processes and that any armed attack on either party will be brought to the attention of the United Nations for immediate action.[5] Once the United Nations has issued such orders all hostile actions between the signatories of this treaty and opposing parties will be terminated.[5]

Article five defines the meaning of attack and its purpose which includes all attacks by a hostile power will be held as an attack on a metropolitan area by both parties or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.[5] Article six states that this treaty does not affect, impede, or shall not be interpreted as affecting the rights and obligations of the parties under the Charter of the United Nations.[5] Article seven states that the treaty shall be ratified in accordance with the constitutional processes set delineated by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.[5] Lastly, article eight stipulates that the treaty terms are indefinite until one or both parties wish to terminate the agreement. If the agreement is to be terminated either party must give one year advanced notice.[5]

Treaty text[edit]

The Parties to this Treaty,

Reaffirming their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all Governments, and desiring to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific Area,

Recalling with mutual pride the historic relationship which brought their two peoples together in a common bond of sympathy and mutual ideals to fight side-by-side against imperialist aggression during the last war,

Desiring to declare publicly and formally their sense of unity and their common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the Pacific Area,

Desiring further to strengthen their present efforts for collective defense for the preservation of peace and security pending the development of a more comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific Area,

Agreeing that nothing in this present instrument shall be considered or interpreted as in any way or sense altering or diminishing any existing agreements or understandings between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines.[5]

Have agreed as follows:

Article I[edit]

The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.[5]

Article II[edit]

In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty, the Parties separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.[5]

Article III[edit]

The Parties, through their Foreign Ministers or their deputies, will consult together from time to time regarding the implementation of this Treaty and whenever in the opinion of either of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of the Parties is threatened by external armed attack in the Pacific.[5]

Article IV[edit]

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.[5]

Article V[edit]

For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.[5]

Article VI[edit]

This Treaty does not affect and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations of the Parties under the Charter of the United Nations or the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.[5]

Article VII[edit]

This Treaty shall be ratified by the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines in accordance with their respective constitutional processes and will come into force when instruments of ratification thereof have been exchanged by them at Manila.[5]

Article VIII[edit]

This Treaty shall remain in force indefinitely. Either Party may terminate it one year after notice has been given to the other Party.[5]


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton featured with Philippine President Benigno Aquino (Left) taken while Secretary Clinton was speaking during her two day visit to the Philippines as a part of President Obama's Partnership for Growth agreement which coincided with the 60th anniversary of the two nations Mutual Defense Treaty, November 17, 2011.
US Navy 080629-N-7730P-009 Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chief of Staff, Gen. Alexander B. Yano shares a handshake with Lt.j.g. Eduardo Vargas. Gen. Yano flew aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the decline of the threat of communism in the 1990s bilateral support for the mutual defense treaty has taken a roller coaster ride especially in the Philippines. Generally, the Philippine Government has remained favorable towards the treaty ever since its inception, more often coming to rely on the U.S. for its defenses as it has done ever since World War II. This was nonetheless more apparent during the Cold War given the numerous active U.S. Military bases in the Philippines. The most notable and controversial of these bases are Clark Air Force Base outside of metro Manila, and the U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay. The bases were garrisoned for nearly 40 years after the end of World War II until the early 1990s. In 1991 anti-US sentiment in the Philippines forced the Philippine Senate to reject a new base agreement treaty that subsequently forced the removal of all US forces from Philippine soil.[6] However, given the rise of global terrorism with the events of 9/11 and the subsequent economic rise and militant expansion of China, the United States has strengthened its ties to its Asian allies especially the Philippines.[4]

In its 60th anniversary year, in a ceremony held on November 11, 2011 on the deck of the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, docked in Manila, the two governments reaffirmed the treaty with the Manila Declaration. The declaration was signed by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Del Rosario and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The declaration was a formal affirmation of defensive ties between the two countries that date back over a century.[7] The declaration states, in part:

The Republic of the Philippines and the United States reaffirm our shared obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty. We expect to maintain a robust, balanced, and responsive security partnership including cooperating to enhance the defense, interdiction, and apprehension capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America today commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. On this historic occasion, we reflect on the rich history of our alliance and the continuing relevance of the treaty for peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. We also reaffirm the treaty as the foundation of our relationship for the next 60 years and beyond.

The United States and the Philippines are bound by a deep and abiding friendship forged by a history of shared sacrifice and common purpose. The many Filipinos who bravely served side-by-side with American servicemen and women during World War II and the veterans of our two nations buried at the Manila American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio bear testament to our profound and enduring bonds. These bonds are enriched by the presence in the US of over four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans, and in the Philippines by over 150,000 Americans, who help shape the political and economic future of both countries.[7]

In a followup to the signing of the Manila Declaration the U.S. and Philippine representatives met to sign onto a new partnership strengthening the economic and defensive ties of the two countries. This new formal agreement is the Partnership for Growth. This new agreement comes as a part of President Obama's Global development initiative which is designed to strengthen the Philippines business development and commercial ties between the two countries.[8] During the signing ceremony of this new agreement Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the U.S.'s position on the mutual defense of the Philippines through the statement "The US will always be in the corner of the Philippines. We will always stand and fight with you to achieve the future we seek".[9]

Official support for the treaty appears to be growing in the face of foreign threats and fears especially as they pertain to China. Under the Aquino Administration in the Philippines and the Obama Administration in the United States neither country appears to be giving any indication of weakening its economic or military ties to one another.


Evacuees board the USS Abraham Lincoln

Opposition to the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty has had its periods of escalations and mediocrity on both sides of the Pacific. The fiercest opposition to the treaty has been the most notable in the Philippines over the past 25 years. Given the longevity of the U.S. Military presence in the Philippines opposition to the U.S. Military presence in the Philippines and the treaty itself began in the 1980s with the escalating tensions surrounding U.S. policy decisions and their repercussions.[10] The late 1970s and 1980s saw a rise in anti-US sentiment following the increasing allegations and perpetrations of U.S. military personnel misconduct towards Filipino men and women. The nightclubs and social hotspots surrounding Clark Air Force Base and Naval Base Subic Bay became flashpoints of allegations of assaults by U.S. service-members on the local Filipinos.[10] Political tensions steadily grew. In 1991 the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 were expiring and the George H. W. Bush Administration of the U.S. and the Corazon Aquino Administration of the Philippines were in talks to renew the agreement. A new treaty was drafted and the new "Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation" specified the renewal of the leases.[11] Anti-US sentiment continued to grow in the Philippines and it was reflected in the election of the Philippine Senate. The majority of the Philippine Senate were in opposition to Philippine President Aquino's Administrations treaty. On September 13, 1991 the Philippine Senate voted and refused to ratify it.[6] As a result, the last of the U.S. military personnel in the Philippines were removed from the bases on November 24, 1992.

The American flag is lowered and Philippine flag is raised during turnover of Naval Station Subic Bay

The opposition movement within the Philippines subsided after the removal of U.S. personnel from the Philippines in the early 90s. It never truly dissipated in its entirety however. Anti-US sentiment remained a prevalent social issue within the collegiate community in Metro Manila and relatively small anti-US demonstrations routinely took place outside the U.S. embassy until the early 2000s.[12] As a result of the unfortunate events surrounding 9/11 the U.S. began restructuring and exercising its rights of the U.S. Philippine Defense Treaty as a part of its War on Terrorism,[12] which included deployment of U.S. forces to the Philippines in Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). As the U.S. military and Philippine Armed Forces began training and conducting anti-terrorist missions within the Philippine archipelago, anti-US sentiment slowly began to rise once again.

2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement[edit]

On April 28, 2014, desiring to enhance cooperative capacities and efforts in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the two governments executed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).[13] The EDCA is designed to promote the following between the Philippines the United States:

  • Interoperability
  • Capacity building towards AFP modernization
  • Strengthening AFP for external defense
  • Maritime Security
  • Maritime Domain Awareness
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR)

The agreement allows U.S. forces access to and use of designated areas and facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the invitation of the Philippine Government. It contains clear provision that the U.S. will not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines and a prohibition of entry to the Philippines of nuclear weapons.[14] The EDCA has an initial term of ten years, and thereafter will continue in force until terminated by either party after having given a one year notice of intention to terminate.[13]


  1. ^ The conflict was long referred to as the "Philippine insurrection" by many U.S. Historians. Filipinos and, increasingly, American historians now refer to these hostilities as the Philippine–American War (1899-1902). In 1999, the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term.[1]


  1. ^ "Philippines (10/29/10)". Country Profile, Philippines. U.S. Department of State. October 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Republic of the Philippines". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2012-2-18.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ History Organization "The Philippines Independence Act". Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  4. ^ a b Research Services "CRS Report for Congress:U.S. Strategic and Defense Relationships in the Asia-Pacific Region" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines". Chan Robles Law Library. Retrieved 4/11/2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ a b York Times "Philippine Senate Votes to Reject U.S. Base Renewal". Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  7. ^ a b Department of State "Signing of the Manila Declaration". Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Initiative For Global Development". Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Clinton Vows Greater Support for Philippine Defense". Inquirer Global Nation. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Comparative Perspectives Anti-Americanism in the Philippines. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  11. ^ "Security Relations and Institutionalism in Southeast Asia" (PDF). University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  12. ^ a b Research Service "US Military Operations in the War on Terrorism" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  13. ^ a b "Document: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement". Official Gazette. Government of the Philippines. April 29, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Q&A on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement". Official Gazette. Government of the Philippines. 

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