South China Sea

FACT CHECK: No NATO pledge to defend PH in South China Sea

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FACT CHECK: No NATO pledge to defend PH in South China Sea
There are no announcements from the alliance about defending the Philippines, a non-NATO member, in its maritime disputes with China

Claim: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will defend the Philippines against China amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video containing the claim has 202,80 views, 2,400 likes, and 466 comments as of writing. 

The title of the video says, “NATO will defend the Philippines and enter into the South China Sea dispute.”

The bottom line: The Philippines is not a member of NATO and is not entitled to assistance from the alliance.

NATO has not made any statement about defending the Philippines in the South China Sea. No official announcements can be found on its official website, the Philippines’ Department of Defense, or reputable news sources.

The misleading video did not provide proof for its claim, only calling on NATO to examine the possibility of enhancing relations with the Philippines.

About NATO: NATO is a military alliance composed of 31 members across North America and Europe. Formed in 1949, the alliance’s purpose is to “guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.” 

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the alliance’s founding treaty, says that members agree to help each other if attacked. The Philippines, however, is not a NATO member as membership is only open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.” 

Non-NATO ally: The US, a NATO member, considers the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally. According to the US Department of State, this designation grants the Philippines certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation but does not entail any security commitments by the US to the designated country.

As China continues its hostile acts in the South China Sea – despite a 2016 arbitral ruling in the Philippines’ favor – the US vowed to support the Philippines and reiterated its “ironclad” defense commitment. Earlier this month, the Philippines held a two-day joint patrol with the US in the West Philippine Sea, following the first iteration in November 2023.

NATO and China: NATO had previously expressed concern over China’s increasing military growth, and said that its “assertive behavior” poses challenges to “the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security.” In 2021, NATO members sent 21 warships into Asian waters for joint operations with regional navies, according to the US Naval Institute

The German warship Bayern also sailed through the South China Sea that same year, the first deployment of a German warship to the region in almost 20 years, joining other Western countries expanding their military presence in the region to counter China’s influence. Katarina Ruflo/

Katarina Ruflo is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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