Philippines Defense Secretary Labels Taiwan Strait Situation as ‘Internal Matter’

MANILA – Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro described the situation in the Taiwan Strait, where China has been conducting military exercises, as an “internal matter,” and refrained from commenting on the drills that Taiwan has condemned.

China’s military executed a second day of war games around Taiwan on May 24, exercises aimed at testing its ability to “seize power” and control key areas. Beijing stated that these drills were a response to Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, whom it views as a separatist.

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

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and criticized President Lai’s inauguration speech on May 20, in which he called for Beijing to stop its threats and emphasized that the two sides of the strait were “not subordinate to each other.”

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. previously drew China’s ire in January when he congratulated Lai after his election victory, referring to him as president. In response, China summoned the Philippine ambassador and warned the Philippines “not to play with fire,” labeling Marcos’s message as gross interference and a serious violation of the “One China” principle.

Marcos later defended his remarks, stating that his message was merely “common courtesy” and not an endorsement of Taiwan independence.

As a U.S. ally, Manila has expressed its interest in recognizing the mutual interests between the Philippines and Taiwan, particularly concerning the 200,000 Filipino workers residing on the island. This diplomatic balancing act highlights the complexities of Manila’s foreign policy amidst regional tensions.