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A Philippine air force Black Hawk helicopter lands in Mavulis Island, Batanes, in June 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE

South China Sea: Philippines to put military base near Taiwan in high gear to tackle tensions with Beijing

  • Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said military infrastructure in Batanes province will be ramped up to ‘ensure the overall safety and integrity of our nation’
  • His comments underscore Manila’s efforts to build its security capability as tensions with China flared up in recent months
The Philippines aims to boost military presence and infrastructure in the country’s northernmost province near Taiwan, according to its defence chief, amid tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea.

“Starting 2024, the operational tempo for the AFP will be higher,” Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jnr was quoted as saying on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Teodoro, who was accompanied by military chief Romeo Brawner Jnr and other officials, made the comments after visiting a naval detachment in Batanes province where a naval base is also being constructed.

Teodoro called for increased military presence and the development of more structures in Batanes, which he described in the February 6 statement as the “spearhead of the Philippines as far as the northern baseline is concerned.” Batanes is about 200km (124 miles) from Taiwan.

Filipino bishops urge Manila to ‘defend what is ours’ in South China Sea

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China to be reunited by force if necessary. While many nations, including the US, do not officially acknowledge Taiwan as an independent state, they oppose any use of force to alter the existing status quo.

The defence chief’s comments underscore the Southeast Asian nation’s efforts to build its security capability as tensions with Beijing flared up in recent months, with their vessels facing off in the South China Sea amid competing territorial claims in the resource-rich waterway.

“The visit highlights the importance of fortifying our territorial defence capabilities to ensure the overall safety and integrity of our nation,” according to the military statement, which did not provide details of the plan.

The Philippines and the US resumed joint patrols in November that began near the province and ended in the South China Sea. Teodoro has said more joint patrols may happen in the future.


Philippines sets up ‘game changer’ monitoring station on island in disputed South China Sea

Philippines sets up ‘game changer’ monitoring station on island in disputed South China Sea

In October, the Philippine navy inaugurated the naval detachment on Mavulis Island in Batanes, an area that is also being considered as a possible site for the annual US-Philippines military exercises this year.

Teodoro also sought increased cooperation between the military and local government units “to protect stakeholders such as fisherfolk and other maritime-related agencies in order for them to feel safer,” the statement said.