MANILA — The Philippines should "carefully" monitor the situation in North Korea, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Sunday after recent missile tests by the reclusive Asian nation.
In a statement, Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said the government should keep an eye on the situation as Pyongyang may get into conflict with neighbors South Korea and Japan, where many Filipinos live and work.
"This is very close to us and quite unpredictable," said Lacson, a presidential candidate in the May 9 elections.
"I hope that it does not come to [a conflict] and that diplomacy will prevail. However, the reality is that the situation requires vigilance and preparedness on our part," he added.
An unnamed senior US official has said two of Pyongyang's recent missile tests were of a new intercontinental ballistic missile system.
The official described the tests as a "serious escalation" by North Korea that will be met with sanctions.
Last week, North Korea's state-run media reported the country's latest launch was to develop a reconnaissance satellite.
Pyongyang has fired projectiles nine times this 2022 but did not test weapons during the 17-day Beijing Winter Olympics in consideration of China, its close economic and security ally.
In a separate statement, Lacson also joined widespread calls to suspend the excise tax on fuel products as oil prices are set to rise in the coming week.
He said the tax should be suspended "until such time that the international price of oil stabilizes to a manageable level."
"The upward trajectory of fuel prices is expected to continue and the government must do something now to mitigate the impact of international oil prices on motorists, the public transport sector, fisherfolk and farmers who will bear the brunt of this burden," he said.
Pump prices are set to increase at an estimated P11.80 to 12 on Tuesday due to the continued war between Russia and Ukraine that has caused a spike in international oil prices.
The government is set to provide "fuel card" subsidies to public transport drivers, delivery riders and workers in the agriculture sector to help them cope with rising oil prices.