06/12/2024, 14.45
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Filipinos celebrate independence amid fears of escalation with China

by Stefano Vecchia

The Philippines marks 126 years since Spanish rule ended. The authorities are worried about China's territorial claims. President Marcos orders the military to be “well prepared" for any situation. The Catholic Church is also afraid that the country “might lose our independence.”

Milan (AsiaNews) – Today is Independence Day in the Philippines, the 126th anniversary of the end of Spanish colonial rule.

This year, celebrations are marred by concerns over national security, most notably China’s territorial claims in waters near or within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. focused on the matter during his visit on Monday at an army base in Gamu, a town in the northern province of Isabela.

To meet the new challenge, Marcos ordered the military to be “well prepared" to deal with any situation, whether China’s direct pressures or any spillover in the country’s far north from the tensions and conflict that might follow an attempt by mainland China to forcibly bring Taiwan under its control.

“The external threat now has become more pronounced, has become more worrisome. And that is why we have to prepare,” said the Philippine leader, who reminded the troops that their mission is no longer just to ensure internal security but also to deal with external challenges.

The president’s remarks come after Cagayan province, the country’s northernmost, was included in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which gives the US military access to storage facilities, airfields, and housing when required for joint initiatives, a move met with disapproval in Beijing.

Tensions on Independence Day are also high because China is set to enforce new regulations next Saturday, 15 June, that stipulate that “intruders” crossing China's borders, can be held for up to 60 days without trial. This covers China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea, part of which are claimed by the Philippines and other countries.

The situation is a source of concern for Philippine Catholic Church as well. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic vicar of Taytay, recently described 12 June as “a gift of God that we must protect. Especially now we have a disturbing problem with China, we might be caught in conflict and we might lose our independence.”

For the prelate, it is necessary to maintain a balance vis-à-vis the interests of other countries.

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