Philippine Defence Secretary declines to comment on Taiwan Strait exercises, calls it an “internal matter”

Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro

24th May 2024 – (Manila) Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro refrained from commenting on the military exercises conducted by China in the Taiwan Strait, stating that it is an “internal matter” for Taiwan. Teodoro’s remarks came amidst China’s second day of war games, which aimed to test its capacity to “seize power” and control strategic areas. These exercises were launched as a response to Taiwan’s President, Lai Ching-te.

Speaking to reporters during a Philippine Navy anniversary event, Teodoro stated, “I will not comment on anything regarding the Taiwan Strait, as that’s an internal matter for them.”

China regards Taiwan, a democratically governed region, as its own territory and labels President Lai as a “separatist.” The Chinese government strongly criticised Lai’s inauguration speech, where he called on Beijing to cease making threats and emphasized that both sides of the strait are not subordinate to each other.

The incident involving Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr further strained relations between China and the Philippines. In January, Marcos congratulated Lai on his election victory, referring to him as the president. China summoned the Philippine ambassador in response, cautioning against “playing with fire” and condemning Marcos’ message as gross interference and a violation of the “One China” principle.

Marcos later defended his remarks, clarifying that they were merely an act of “common courtesy” and did not endorse Taiwanese independence. The Philippines, a U.S. ally, has expressed its desire to acknowledge the mutual interests between the Philippines and Taiwan, including the well-being of approximately 200,000 Filipino workers on the island.