PH looking to tap US assets to evacuate Filipinos from Taiwan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — The Philippines is in talks with the US for the use of American assets to ferry Filipinos who might be affected if hostilities erupt in Taiwan, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Wednesday.

As both countries have existing deals — the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) — Galvez told a Senate panel that “it is a “possibility.”

“If there’s an attack on Taiwan by the Chinese forces, our main goal is to really first look for the welfare of OFWs in Taiwan,” he said during a Senate inquiry on Wednesday regarding the issues surrounding EDCA.

Galvez said the Philippines might need to repatriate around 150,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.

The official said the country’s concern was aired during the third US Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington last week.

“We really intimated to them our concern. I believe, being our ally, they might consider… really help in bringing (in) 150,000 of our OFWs,” he added.

The humanitarian assistance, he said, can also extend “to absorb further other evacuations of other nationals.”

He also said the tensions facing the region have been considered in choosing strategic locations for EDCA.

“That’s the reason why we have decided to have that EDCA so we have those preparations from now,” he said.

Last week, China advised the Philippines to oppose “Taiwan independence” as it also criticized the latter’s move to expand US military presence in the country.

“The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose 'Taiwan independence' rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs [overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan]," Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said in a forum last Friday.