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Taiwan-China conflict may result in Philippines humanitarian crisis – DND

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Taiwan-China conflict may result in Philippines humanitarian crisis â DND
A woman uses her mobile phone as she walks in front of a large screen showing a news broadcast about China's military exercises encircling Taiwan, in Beijing on August 4, 2022. China's largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan kicked off August 4, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes after a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may bear the brunt of an ensuing humanitarian crisis in the event of an armed conflict between China and Taiwan, a defense official told a Senate hearing yesterday.

Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Andres Centino was asked by members of the Senate committee on national defense and security on the rising tensions between China and Taiwan at the first hearing of the panel chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

The official also warned of the serious economic repercussions of an armed conflict between the two countries as trillions of dollars worth of trade pass through the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea annually.

“If there will be armed confrontation in the area – we hope and pray that won’t happen – first, of course, is the humanitarian crisis. We’ll be affected,” Centino said in mixed Filipino and English in response to a question from Sen. Risa Hontiveros about the possible spillover of such a war.

“We expect also refugees will be coming to us, because we’re the closest to Taiwan, these are the probable implications of the war,” he said.

Beijing considers Taiwan its renegade province and has been exerting efforts to isolate it in securing commitments from states to adopt a one-China policy.

The recent visit of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan triggered a large-scale and extended military exercise by China that included some brief intrusions of its aircraft as claimed by Taiwanese officials.

Centino expressed hope the situation would be resolved peacefully even as the government, particularly the Armed Forces, prepares in the event of a “miscalculation.”

Upon questioning from Estrada, he estimated there are more than 140,000 Filipinos, including contract workers, in the island that would have to be repatriated in the event of an escalation of conflict.

He said the repatriation plan was detailed and has a timeline but he did not elaborate.

“Right now, the thing we can do is closely monitor. We have prepared contingencies in the event the worst-case scenario will happen,” he said.

Centino also said the country’s obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US may be triggered in the event of an armed conflict between China and Taiwan, depending on the actual circumstances.

He said fulfilling obligations under the MDT would still have to comply with the Constitution.

Armed Forces deputy chief of staff Vice Adm. Rommel Antony Reyes told the committee the implementation of the military modernization program continues but remains delayed due to fund lack.

Reyes said Horizon 1 of the modernization is nearly complete and is geared toward internal security operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Horizon 2 aims to make the Armed Forces fully mission-capable in the West Philippine Sea, while the objective of Horizon 3 is to make the military capable of amply protecting the entire territory.

Because of emerging external threats, the modernization is now focused on external defense, he said.

DND

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