MANILA - The Philippine military is developing its "air defense" systems to prepare for a "threat of missiles," its chief said Wednesday.
"Right now, we are prioritizing air defense because of the threat of missiles being developed by neighboring countries," Gen. Gilbert Gapay, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told the Commission on Appointments.
"We are identifying airstrips across the country... to be developed as forward air bases or air detachments," he said.
Gapay did not mention any country, although China fired missiles into the South China Sea last week.
A spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense earlier said that the firing of medium-ranged missiles was "not directed at any country," but an expert on the Chinese military said the exercise demonstrated Beijing's growing military might in the disputed waters.
Gapay said most of China's military activities are in the Paracel Islands, which is not part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
But the AFP considers this as a threat due to its proximity to the Philippines, he said.
Aside from the development of air assets and airstrips, the Philippines continues to hold joint exercises with its traditional ally the United States after President Rodrigo Duterte suspended the termination of the two countries' Visiting Forces Agreement, Gapay said.
"Interoperability is being enhanced regularly through the conduct of these joint exercises with our allied forces... But because of COVID, these kinetic exercises are put on hold. But we continue to train through virtual channels," he said.