DND raps Beijing for nixing military buildup in Batanes
China has no right to comment on Philippine military decisions within its territory, the Department of National Defense said Sunday, after Beijing warned against a plan to increase the local military presence in Batanes, the country’s northernmost province.
The Defense department issued the statement after China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin recently said the Philippines should “tread carefully and don’t play with fire” by putting troops near Taiwan.
From its southernmost point, Taiwan is just over 200 kilometers north of Batanes’ Itbayat Island.
The Chinese statement also comes as the United States and the Philippines held their third joint sea and air patrol in three months in the West Philippine Sea on Friday, the allies said.
The latest sea and air patrols came as Washington seeks to strengthen its defense ties in the region in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
“The Defense Department stresses that Batanes is Philippine territory and China has no business warning the Philippines about what it does within its own territory,” it said in a statement.
The DND said plans to put up more structures in Batanes are part of the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept to address gaps in the country’s defenses.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has called for the development of more sites in Batanes after inspecting Naval Detachment Basco, Naval Detachment Mavulis, Itbayat Airport, and the Multi-Agency Facility in Mahatao.
Wang, hinting that Beijing sees the buildup in Batanes as related to Taiwan, stressed “the Taiwan question is at the heart of China’s core interests and is a red line and bottom line that must not be crossed.”
The DND said that China “should refrain from engaging in provocative rhetoric and activities,” claiming these affect its credibility.
Teodoro has called for increased military presence in Batanes, calling the northernmost province “the spearhead of the Philippines.”
The Defense chief recently visited Batanes, accompanied by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command Toribio Adaci Jr.
Defense and military officials also visited the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority in Santa Ana, Cagayan.
“The visit by Secretary Teodoro signifies a pivotal moment in our nation’s commitment to territorial defense and national security,” Naval Forces Northern Luzon said.
“The importance of securing borders and establishing a robust presence in strategic areas was also highlighted through a marker unveiling and insightful briefing conducted at the Naval Detachment Mavulis, symbolizing the unwavering dedication to safeguarding the nation’s borders and ensuring the safety of the people,” it added.
Meanwhile, Gen. Brawner checked on the morale and welfare of soldiers stationed on Mavulis Island.
The military chief expressed his appreciation and admiration to the soldiers for their dedication to duty and selflessness in taking on the remote assignment.
“What you’re doing here in Mavulis is essential to our territorial defense, in safeguarding our sovereignty, and in the performance of our mission as protector of the people and the state,” he said. Vince Lopez with AFP