What It Means to be a Treaty Ally?

Each and every nations' aim is national interest particularly on something it sees as either significant or helpful that will help to pursue it for the betterment of its citizens. 

And that means having an ally in which it mutually pursues the interest of two countries in various avenues like emphasizing national security. 

Although the nature of it is simple and good to grasp, its deeper understanding is something an ordinary citizen cannot comprehend. 

Hence, here comes a question on the matter: What it really means to be a treaty ally, and what is the responsibility that a participating nation entails from it?

The Philippines is already a staunch US Ally since the former's
Independence from the latter. Photo of Balikatan 2018 Amphibious Exercises
Obtained by Xinhua News Agency.
In the civilian understanding of foreign relations, belonging to an alliance is definitely a benefit for a nation he or she belongs where his or her country is guaranteed that in a case of conflict or say, an invasion of the home nation, there will always be somebody that will come to the rescue and help the local armed forces repel the threats back from where they belong. One may call it as a heroic thing ala-known superhero of sorts or somewhat equivalent because most of the civilian people see it as such.

Well, such interpretation of alliances holds some truth on itself in which by nature, that country with strong armed forces will come and help its lesser-than-thou allies on the premise that reflects the national interest and international diplomacy. Take for example the context of Russians helping the Syrian regime flushing out its local rebellion which is apparently, receives "condemnation" from Western Countries, citing humanitarian concerns over the said conflict. 

However, such help isn't always going as intended or up to the expectations of several citizens on their perception that an ally nation is always there to provide assistance especially in terms of protecting a nation or improving its armed forces in a sense that only one side is doing an effort to do all those things while the other side simply keeps on receiving things without giving something in return. The keyword in any alliance points to this very principle that both nations needed to help each other. Such a thing  Mutualism.


So, let us take the word "mutualism" in its usual definition. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the word "mutualism" refers to the association of organisms of two different species in which each benefit. That is definitely the way alliances work especially on the embodiment of various Mutual Defense Treaties such as the one between the Philippines and the United States have.

By that sense, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty is what makes the United States and Philippines' role as "treaty allies" are bound together, with conditions given in the case of an armed attack that both sides have roles and simply not relying on what a single side has to offer. Well, to point it out, here is the quote coming from the treaty itself, on the Article 2 provision:

"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."

There is no need for a further explanation over this matter. The words in the article 2 provision are sufficient enough to understand especially the part that self-help alongside mutual aid is a necessity for such a treaty to achieve its aims. As far as these things are concerned, the effort made by the Philippine Government to modernize its Armed Forces to cope up with internal (terrorists and rebels) and external threats (China) somewhat makes it helpful to make the Philippines achieve the objective at least on the self-help part.

The modernization process also may not be possible without my part, the help of an ally like the United States. From Foreign Defense Articles to Military sales, many military assets and munitions help enhance the country's military capabilities at present as well as the number of assistance made on recent conflicts and standoffs, both with direct and indirect impacts to the Nation's interest.


These examples are somewhat already known to the people where official media outlets, social media users, and forum members gave the number of reports to the contributions the US gave to the nations like the Philippines. Let us enumerate some of the projects here to give the idea about the assets they give which is a big help for the armed forces.

Military Assets

Throughout the years, the United States somehow provided military assets as they support countries like the Philippines as well as other countries in the form of sale or aid through Foreign Defense Articles. Notably, a portion of those assets is considered "second-hand weaponry" which are already in service within a certain branch of the United States military before being handed over to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for capability enhancement.

Examples of military assets that are sold or given by the United States to the Philippines include the Gregorio del Pilar-class Frigates (ex-USCG Hamilton-class cutters) which improves the fleet's patrolling capabilities such as longer endurance or duration of staying at sea, additional M-113 armored personnel carriers that protect the troops being deployed while in combat, Boeing Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), as well as countless others that are already given throughout the history including the ones obtained or purchased when the United States still has a military base at Clark Pampanga, from F-86 to F-5A/B fighter jets as well as UH-1 Combat Utility Helicopters and C-130 Cargo Aircraft.

Add to that, the nature of military equipment Philippines obtain since its independence from the United States in 1946 and the enhancement of the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951 makes it in line to the doctrines, maintenance, and operations the same way the United States and other allied nations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) do in which it defines the military ecosystem a country like the Philippines is lenient upon.

Photo source. (C) Erwin Fuguet
Case in a note during the Cold War, the United States, and Russia together with its respective allies have military weaponry that adheres to the standards that are followed either from two of these great powers at that time. Hence, difficulties are encountered with regards to the compatibility of it especially if an armed forces source it from both sides that definitely complicates logistics. However, there lies an advantage if one source decides to block arms sales where the other still help the military operate its assets. Countries like Indonesia or Venezuela, especially on its Air Force, obtain both Western and Russian-based weaponry. 

Military Munitions

Aside from operational, active military equipment that utilizes for defending the national sovereignty, an ally also provides munitions that serve as teeth for the military to surely strike its target as intended where mission success rate increases and guaranteed.

This includes AGM-65 Maverick air to surface missiles and AIM-9L air to air missiles that make combat aircraft like South Korean-made FA-50PH Fighting Eagles and soon to arrive Brazilian-made A-29 Super Tucanos armed further to the teeth where, alongside unguided munitions and gun rounds, it helps the air force pilots to do their job well as intended where their primary objectives were met and as well as the desired security and support from the skies is achieved. 

These given munitions especially the AGM-65 Mavericks are the first for the AFP especially for the Philippine Air Force in a sense that such capability is used against ground targets which are an improvement from the usual surgical dropping of unguided bombs that definitely requires enhanced pilot skills to undertake such a feat.
A PTV Screenshot of an FA-50 with the AGM-65 attached.
Case in a note once again. The munitions given here, just like the military assets are paid for by the Government where several instances, it includes purchasing or simply refurbishing it depending on whether it is brand new or not. Nevertheless, both of these things are given the significance that the AFP, as the result of having an alliance between the Philippines and the United States, receives or purchases its tools that are produced by the latter and other friendlies where that as well provide the equipment needed for the protection of the country against insurgent elements and other threats that may cause for concern in terms of national security.

Exercises and Technical Assistance

Throughout the years, both the Philippines and the United States exchange knowledge especially in the security field where tactics, strategies, ideas, approaches, and stronger bonds are made.

These things are done through military exercises and joint military operations which at present primarily aims against terrorism that hampers peace in the nation as well as Humanitarian operations intended to seek immediate assistance for those in need especially in times of natural disasters. The given examples here are the EDCA or Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Balikatan Exercises among others.

They also provide technical assistance where, although foreign powers aren't allowed to engage directly in case of a conflict, they indirectly engage wherein providing surveillance information, intelligence, and other technical matters are their things. One example is the conflict last year in the City of Marawi where the Government successfully end the terror campaign by Radical Sympathizers together with the Armed Forces fighting on the ground with the support from the air and of course, the technical matters like surveillance provided by alliances like the United States.

And to add this up, recent reports include that for the first time in the history of RIMPAC, the Philippines will send two of its ships which includes one Del Pilar-class frigate and a companion in a form of Tarlac-class Landing Platform Dock to participate on the exercise where this involves the Navies across the Pacific Rim where naval drills, exercises, knowledge exchanges, and camaraderie are the benefits of this participation.  

Now since that this correlates to the Philippine-US alliance and diplomatic relations, this might be an opportunity that there will be a nice practice of interoperability between the navies that might come handy on the relations of the two nations as time passes by. Take note also of this year's Balikatan Exercises where it is still taking place at present despite the government warming up of relations to China as well as the threats posing in the disputed waters as the Chinese installs defense systems on its outposts situated in the highly-contested waters of the West Philippine Sea.

This video on YouTube provided by Inquirer.net exhibits the good use of interoperability on an exercise in which U.S. Assault Amphibious Vehicles (AAV) with both the Philippine and the U.S. personnel on board disembarks a Tarlac-class LPD and proceeds to conduct coastal insertion. Given the details, this is much useful considering that The Philippines set to acquire its own Assault Amphibious Vehicles from South Korea which will deliver later this year using its own funds. 

This will make the nation somehow a reliable ally in the sense that the country's armed forces will soon have its own AAVs to embark on. It is a small attribute of what it means to be a treaty ally which becomes more reliable by having the military providing its own tools to enhance the exchange of skills as well as training that takes place at present.

Should the modernization program keep on improving the capabilities of the Philippine Republic through its Armed Forces to defend itself, it gives a good sign that it may be a way of showing that the nation slowly becomes a reliable ally where, despite some political clout, it will make bonds stronger with brothers will rely one over the other, especially when needed on doing the duty of defending nations.

With these exercises taking place with more opportunities connected to it are in sight, the alliance will remain as strong as it is intended where, the times have tested it and even with some of the disagreements at present, both nations are still working hand in hand especially in terms of defense matters. This is something that will keep on going as time passes by.


Read: The Whole Text of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty

This is the main basis of the alliance between the Philippines and the United States where throughout the years, The Philippines obtains most of its military equipment from the United States at that time as well as hosting the military base in Subic Bay and Clark Air Field throughout the Cold War until they left in 1991.

Signed on August 30, 1951, this eight-articled treaty is legally binding both sides where they must support and help each other should one of these countries were to be attacked by any external offensive forces which pose the threat to each countries' national security and sovereignty. 

This treaty is still binding at the present date just as it was years ago where active participation from both sides retaining military alliances are still taking place, showing that the alliance of both countries is still strong in a way that there will be no other administrative policies at present, especially at soft diplomacy with China may hamper its essence

To be honest, this treaty may well be helpful particularly in terms of getting in line to the International Arbitral Tribunal set by UNCLOS which verdicts the decision on the contested waters in favor to the Philippines if given the provisions of the treaty especially to the ones that point on the Charter of the United Nations

However, the treaty was signed decades long before UNCLOS was initialized in 1982 and the United States on that matter is a non-signatory of this United Nations Convention. In other words, the treaty covers more of the Philippine Archipelago with perhaps the exception of the contested features such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal where, regardless of its categorization as a rock feature, a reef, or an island, lies beyond the Philippine territorial waters, albeit it is within the Exclusive Economic Zone which entitles the Philippines the sovereign right to exploit the maritime resources in the area ranging from marine wildlife to offshore underwater mineral and oil deposits. 

Despite being a UNCLOS non-signatory, the United States is doing its part where aside from the Philippine Claim over the West Philippine Sea, this body of water is essential for world commerce and trade in which may affect the world economy directly or indirectly should a shooting war sparked in this region if any miscalculations and misunderstandings are made. One will ask: What actions does the United States do in the disputed waters? 

The answer is they simply conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations or FONOPS. Several of the U.S. ships find time docking either in Manila or in the former U.S. Naval Base in Subic either coming from a FONOP activity or simply conducting routine patrols which is a usual thing that can be attributed from the strong alliance both nations obtain. 

It might be better for the Philippines to further enhance its capabilities in terms of equipment and further assert its claim in the highly-contested waters where the former awaits funding while the latter depends on how the government plays diplomacy at present with some unfavorable circumstance.

Hence, despite the situation today with the latest entanglements taking place in the West Philippine Sea like the recent defense system deployments on China's military outposts within the highly-contested area, the alliance will remain strong with the Philippines modernizes its armed forces slowly but surely in a sense that being a more reliable ally is essential in this two-way relationship. At present, military exercises and agreements are still helpful on its own worth albeit the diplomatic warm-up with China.
A U.S. Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) veering itself to the shore with the BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the background. This is in the US-PH Balikatan Amphibious Exercises.
Photo from Xinhua News Agency.


Since the Philippine independence from the United States in 1946, the alliance between two nations becomes firm when the mutual defense treaty was signed 5 years later with provisions about the obligations of both countries to stand and defend one over the other in case of conflict.

With the situation and diplomacy that is shifting to the east in particular to China, the alliance still standing firmly in a sense that bit by bit, the Philippine obligations as a reliable partner or an ally is getting better with the passing time. 

This is better where militarily speaking, newer pieces of equipment and newer capabilities help improve interoperability and reliance in the sense that the country is capable of carrying out a certain military activity or action with the equipment available to deliver it. 

As far as military exercises taking place and partnerships forging hand in hand in terms of other things such as humanitarian assistance, both the Philippines and the United States will remain allies with the sense that the former becomes more reliable on itself without relying too much on the latter.

Hence, being a treaty ally comes with benefits as well as obligations that are needed to uphold varying on the terms written in the agreement. Being a reliable ally means standing on one's own feet with a capable armed force rather than looking after for an ally to secure the country. 

And a reliable ally is something respectful to see where a more powerful ally may no longer incur more taxpayer expenses into an ally in which it invests itself for the better, using its own money into good use. 

Alliances definitely go with the saying: Respect begets respect.

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