MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday said that the government has plans in place should the tension between Taiwan and China escalate.
DND officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. said that the government has detailed plans and timelines should Filipinos in Taiwan need to be repatriated.
Faustino said the government continues to "closely monitor" developments related to Taiwan and China.
"Right now, what we can do is closely monitor. We have prepared contingency if and ever worst case scenario will happen," he said.
He noted that other nations aside from the Philippines will be affected if the tensions rise, especially that the Taiwan Strait is considered a "sea lane of communication."
Faustino said the government is also preparing plans to address the possible surge of refugees, as the Philippines is Taiwan's nearest neighbor.
Faustino said they are hoping the tensions between Taiwan and China will not escalate into war.
But in the worst case scenario, he said the government will turn to its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.
"We have to honor the Mutual Defense Treaty. Nakasulat po iyan sa Mutual Defense Treaty ng 1951 sa US. But nakasaad din doon, it will still be according to our constitutional processes at hindi po ito automatic. And the same sa US," he said.
HARD FOR PH TO BE 'NEUTRAL' AMID TENSIONS: ANALYSTS
Two geopolitical analysts said the Philippines will have a difficult time staying neutral amid the tensions, given the country's close ties with the US.
Aside from the MDT, the Philippines also has a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.
Since the treaty requires both countries to help each other in case of an external aggression, the Philippines would be on the side of the US, according to Professor Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies at the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG).
However, the Philippines’ stance should not depend on its defense deals with the US, but on its national interests, he said in a media forum in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, Professor Anna Rosario Malindog Uy, Vice President for External Affairs of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI), said the best thing the Philippines can do would be to not get involved in the tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Rather, the country must pursue a ‘genuine’ independent foreign policy and adhere to the One-China policy.
“Let us be neutral,” Malindog Uy said in the same forum. “We should not be dragged into any conflict that is not our own making and we have nothing to do with.”
She added, the current administration must reconsider and review its defense deals with the US.
There are around 145,000 Filipinos working and residing in Taiwan.
The recent visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was seen by China as a violation of its sovereignty because it considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.
Pelosi’s Taiwan visit angered China, which launched intensified live-fire military drills that raised fears of an armed conflict.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs had called for restraint by all parties concerned.