Philippines urges protection of its nationals in Taiwan amid China tensions
Manila, Apr 19 (EFE).- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged to “ensure the safety” of Philippine workers in Taiwan and prepare a “contingency plan” for an evacuation, amid tensions in the island.
Marcos Jr. requested his foreign affairs ministry to make an evacuation plan for Philippine workers in Taiwan in the event of an attack by China, which claims sovereignty over the self-governing island, as confirmed Wednesday by ministerial sources.
The petition follows Friday statements by Huang Xilian, Chinese ambassador in Manila, who said the Philippines “should be concerned about the safety” of the more than 150,000 Filipinos in Taiwan, which was seen as a threat to Manila for its strengthened military alliance with the United States.
Huang’s remarks come against a backdrop of diplomatic tension between China and the Philippines, after Manila announced on Apr. 3 the four new military bases in the archipelago to which US troops will have access (bringing the total to nine), amid its renewed defense agreement with Washington.
One of the bases is located on the northern peak of the archipelago, some 300 kilometers from Taiwan, which has angered Beijing; the other is close to the islands and reefs over whose sovereignty Manila and Beijing have a territorial conflict in the South China Sea, in Philippine territorial waters.
Huang was later quick to deny the alleged threat on Philippine workers in Taiwan in a statement, saying his remarks were taken out of context, but some senators and congressmen have continued to denounce the alleged Chinese coercion.
The decision to give Americans access to military bases in such sensitive locations nonetheless divides the Philippine political class.
Senator Imee Marcos, sister of the Philippine president, called on Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo in a Wednesday Senate committee to say whether the Manila would allow the Washington to “refuel and repair its [military] assets” in the event of a war in Taiwan.
Manalo said “according to the provisions” of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Pact with the US, the Philippines would not be required to provide such assistance, according to ABS-CBN.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang will visit the Philippines from Friday to Sunday, which is expected to help ease tensions between the two countries, with Beijing being Manila’s biggest trading partner. EFE