DND riled by China's 'veiled threat' vs OFWs in Taiwan

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2023 06:06 PM | Updated as of Apr 15 2023 11:33 PM

Members of the Philippine and US Armed Forces participate in a live fire exercise of the FGM-148 'Javelin' anti-tank system as part of Balikatan 2023 in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on Thursday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Members of the Philippine and US Armed Forces participate in a live fire exercise of the FGM-148 "Javelin" anti-tank system as part of Balikatan 2023 in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on Thursday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

DND says 'prudent to prepare for any contingencies' for Taiwan OFWs

MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday defended the country's Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, just as it expressed concern on the remarks of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian against the Filipino workers in Taiwan. 

Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the country is not "meddling in the internal affairs of China concerning Taiwan," and even described this as the ambassador's "illusion." 

It was not also directed against any country, he added. 

Ambassador Huang earlier said Beijing “reserves the option of taking all necessary measures” should things escalate in the Taiwan Strait, just as it advised Manila to oppose “Taiwan independence” if it really cares about the 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) there. 

"The Philippines observes the One China Policy and maintains the ASEAN principle of non-interference in approaching regional issues," Andolong said in a statement. 

"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," he added. 

Andolong, however, did not provide in the statement any details on the possible preparation for contingencies for OFWs in Taiwan. The Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier this week though said the EDCA bases could be used by Manila and Washington for "emergency situations." 

The Chinese official's statement is also a "subtle threat" to the country, he said, by "tragically leveraging on the plight of our hardworking and peace-loving OFWs" there. 

He also reiterated the EDCA's purpose: to improve the country's defense capacities. Andolong said the country would continue pursuing peace and mutual respect on top of this. 

"[It] 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. 

US Embassy in the Philippines Press Attaché Kanishka Gangopadhyay, meanwhile, said they have "no specific response" to Huang's statement. 

Gangopadhyay said the EDCA is "not about any other third country" as this is anchored on the alliance between Manila and Washington. 

"EDCA sites will support combined training exercises and interoperability between US and Philippine forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises," he said. 

A political analyst and a retired Philippine general earlier in the day described the Chinese official's statements as a "veiled threat."

Ret. Gen. Edilberto Adan said it was also “very disturbing” and a form of “coercion.” 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had already said the Philippines will not allow its military bases to be used for any offensive attacks, 

The National Security Council (NSC), also clarified that the Philippines has no intention of interfering with the Taiwanese affairs.

NSC spokesperson Asst. Director General Jonathan Malaya said the Philippines will not allow itself to be used by other countries to interfere in the said issue as claimed by the Chinese Ambassador in the Philippines.

"National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año has made our position clear that the increased security cooperation between the Philippines and the United States is meant to develop and strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to enable it to protect and defend the territory of the Philippines and is not meant to contain or counter any nation in the region or to interfere in another nation’s affairs," said Malaya in a statement.

Malaya cited that the country is primarily concerned about improving its defense capability, modernizing our equipment and assets, and developing our infrastructure. 

"These are the primary reasons why we are increasing our security cooperation with the United States under the 72-year old Mutual Defense Treaty between our two countries," said Malaya.

"We observe the One China Policy and subscribe to the ASEAN principle of non-interference in approaching regional issues. Our primordial concern in Taiwan is the safety and well-being of the more than 150,000 Filipinos living and working on the island and we take grave exception to any effort by guests in our country to use this to fear-monger and intimidate us."

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