Press Release
April 17, 2023

Include simulation of OFW evacuation in Taiwan in future Balikatan exercises - Tolentino

MANILA - Senator Francis 'TOL' N. Tolentino on Monday proposed for the country's Balikatan Exercises to include in upcoming drills the simulation of the evacuation of more than 150,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) based in Taiwan as a precautionary measure in case the geopolitical tension between Beijing and Taipei further worsens.

"I advise the head of the Balikatan Gaming Exercise--Philippine side--isama na rin sa practice next year kung paano tayo mag e-evacuate using ships/sasakyang pandagat galing Taiwan papunta ng Cagayan or Batanes in case--for contingency," Tolentino, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security said in an ambush media interview.

Tolentino stressed that sea evacuation is the most feasible type of evacuation plan to quickly repatriate OFWs working in Taiwan as The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the island nation is "highly vulnerable" to air attack from China's People's Liberation Army-Air Force and "is unlikely to thwart Chinese military air superiority in a cross-strait conflict."

He added that the participation of commercial vessels in the evacuation simulation should be also considered to hasten the repatriation of affected OFWs in case a full-scale conflict between Beijing and Taipei escalates along the Taiwan Strait.

"Kasi hindi naman pwedeng C-130 (plane)--papaano mo isasakay sa C-130 ang 150,000? So iku-kumander mo ang mga private ship--i-practice/ire-rehearse," the senator said.

Tolentino who is also the vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, meanwhile, reminded Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) or the Balikatan Exercises were "not designed for any skirmishes in the Taiwan Strait" but rather for the protection of the Republic of the Philippines.

"Yung EDCA ay para sa proteksyon ng Pilipinas, hindi to project military force outside the jurisdiction of the Philippines," Tolentino stressed.

The senator also advised China's top diplomat in the country "to exercise prudence in the manner he speaks" to further improve the current relations between Manila and Beijing.

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