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‘Philippines must prepare for external threats’

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos has ordered Army units in Northern Luzon to be “well-prepared” amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.

Speaking to members of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division at Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela on Monday, Marcos said the Philippines’ proximity to Taiwan puts it within China’s area of interest.

“As I’m sure you know, Kaohsiung is 40 minutes flight from Laoag, so Taiwan is very close, which immediately puts us in the area of interest of China, and that is why it is important that the northern part of the Philippines is well-prepared for any eventuality,” Marcos said.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province.

“The external threat now has become more pronounced, has become more worrisome. And that is why we have to prepare,” he said.

He told officers and men of the 5th ID that their mission has expanded to territorial defense and stressed the importance of continued modernization of the Armed Forces.

“So, that is the mission that you have before you. Now, you have two missions, whereas before it was only internal security,” he said.

“For our part, (we will) build up that capability to make sure that you have all that you need to be effective in the defense of the republic,” the President said.

While the Philippines is not taking territory, its leadership has to make full commitment to defend the country against foreign attacks, according to the President.

“We are not trying to take territory. We are not trying to redraw the lines of sovereign territory, the EEZ (exclusive economic zone), the baseline,” he said.

Citing the changing geopolitical landscape and emerging new threats, the government decided to include Cagayan as a site for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Signed in 2014, EDCA allows US access to Philippine bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing. Permanent basing is prohibited.

In his keynote speech at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Marcos stressed that the country has “clear moral ascendancy” in asserting its sovereign rights and maritime claims, which are based on