Gibo: Batanes activities none of China’s business
Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. on Saturday gave a stinging rebuke to China after it warned that Manila should not be “playing with fire” after Teodoro said he wanted increased military presence in Batanes, the country’s northernmost province facing Taiwan.
“The Defense Department stresses that Batanes is Philippine territory and China has no business warning the Philippines about what it does within its territory,” the Department of National Defense (DND) said in a statement.
The DND was reacting to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin who said Taiwan is “at the heart of China’s core interests and is a red line and bottom line that must not be crossed.”
But according to the DND, it is their mandate “to secure the sovereignty of the State and integrity of the national territory as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.”
China’s pronouncements and actions, the DND said, were “the main reasons for its low credibility with the Filipino people.”
“China should refrain from engaging in provocative rhetoric and activities if it truly wants to earn the widespread trust and respect that it is trying so hard to gain but has, so far, been unable to,” the defense department said.
During his visit to troops in Batanes on Feb. 6, including the naval detachment in Mavulis Island, Teodoro said he wanted more military presence and the development of more military structures in the province.
In a message to the Inquirer, maritime expert Jay Batongbacal pointed out the importance of Batanes in defending the country.
Batongbacal, head of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the University of the Philippines College of Law, said Batanes stands guard over the Luzon straits, a vital international waterway that supports Manila’s maritime trade, including that of many others in East Asia.
“Improving our outposts there will certainly help secure our fishing grounds and fishermen operating there,” he said.
“It is vital in case of Chinese aggression against Taiwan; people fleeing an armed conflict in Taiwan will likely pass through/around those waters,” he added.