DND takes exception to China envoy’s claim PH 'stoking' tension over Taiwan
The Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday objected to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian's claim that the Philippines was “stoking” geopolitical tensions by offering the United States access to its military bases near Taiwan.
"The Department of National Defense takes exception to the statement of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that the Philippines is meddling in the internal affairs of China concerning Taiwan," the agency's spokesperson, Arsenio Andolong, said in a statement.
In a separate statement, National Security Council spokesperson Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya clarified that “the Philippines has no intention of interfering in the Taiwan issue and will not allow itself to be used by other countries to interfere in the said issue.”
“[W]e take grave exception to any effort by guests in our country to use this to fearmonger and intimidate us,” he said.
China considers Taiwan a part of its territory, which it aims to reclaim by force if necessary.
On Friday, Huang "advised" the Philippines to oppose Taiwan independence instead of offering the US access to its military facilities near the Taiwan Strait if Manila “genuinely” cared about the 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan.
Andolong said that the Philippines’ primordial concern in Taiwan is the safety and well-being of Filipinos living and working on the island.
“The Philippines observes the One China Policy and maintains the ASEAN principle of non-interference in approaching regional issues. We reiterate that our primordial concern in Taiwan is the safety and wellbeing of the Filipinos living and working on the island,” he said.
“Amid the tensions in the Cross Straits, however, the department deems it prudent to prepare for any contingencies to ensure the safety of Filipinos overseas, especially those based in Taiwan,” Andolong added.
The DND also rejected Huang's comparison of the Taiwan situation to the insurgency problem in Mindanao.
“We wish to emphasize that the issues are different from each other,” Andolong said.
“The whole context and rich experience of our peace process in Mindanao, which allowed the participation of the international community (Malaysia, the EU, Turkey, Japan, Brunei, Australia, Sweden, Norway, the UK, Germany, UN organizations, JICA, and other international organizations), is aligned with the Philippines' position of resolving disputes peacefully," he said.
EDCA sites are Philippine military facilities to which US forces will have access under the two countries' Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in 2014.
The two sides have agreed to designate four new EDCA sites, three of which are in the northern portion of Luzon.
These are the Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Isabela, the Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, and the Camilo Osias Naval Base, also in Cagayan.
A fourth EDCA site has been designated on Balabac island in Palawan, near the disputed South China Sea.
There are already five existing EDCA locations. These are the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.
Andolong said the DND seeks to improve the country’s defense capabilities, reiterating that the implementation of the EDCA is not directed against any country.
“The implementation of EDCA is not directed against any country and is in line with our efforts to modernize our alliance and enable collective defense and peace, promote our national interest, protect our national sovereignty, ensure the livelihood and welfare of our fisherfolk and communities, and enhance our capability to respond to emergencies and disasters, as well as provide humanitarian assistance,” he said.
Malaya said that National Security Adviser Eduardo Año personally assured Huang in a meeting earlier this week that the additional EDCA sites “are not meant for offensive operations against China or for interference in the Taiwan issue but instead are meant to protect the territorial integrity of the country.”
Año also stressed that the EDCA sites aim not to contain or counter any nation in the region but are meant to develop the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“He assured the Chinese Ambassador that the Philippines is for the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue and for the continued stability of the region,” Malaya said.
“By developing our military and base infrastructure,” the Philippines is pursuing its national interest and “actually contributing to regional peace and stability,” he added.
“We hope that the People's Republic of China will see this as the country’s positive contribution towards peace and stability in the region.” —with a report from Giselle Ombay/VBL/KG, GMA Integrated News