President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. rallied members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to brace themselves for “geopolitical changes” as he underscored the importance of maritime air patrol missions in upholding territorial integrity.
“The days ahead will not be easy and will demand every ounce of your strength and resilience. The winds of change signal geopolitical changes around our region and other parts of the world that have yet to affect us,” Mr. Marcos said during the PAF’s 76th founding anniversary at Clark Air Base in Pampanga on Monday.
“The Philippine Air Force’s maritime air patrol missions are thus essential in upholding our territorial integrity and safeguarding Philippine maritime zones,” added the commander-in-chief.
Mr. Marcos expressed his administration’s strong commitment to support the Air Force as part of the Armed Forces modernization program.
Mr. Marcos, who led the awarding of outstanding PAF officers, also attended a PAF capability demonstration at the Col. Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Tarlac.
Earlier, Defense chief Gilbert Teodoro said the Philippines is not a pawn in the geopolitical maneuvering in the South China Sea.
Teodoro said the Philippines’ partnerships with other nations should not be linked to the territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The Philippines is for the Philippines and we leverage that. And I think other countries want to help us because they view it as… standing strong with democratic values,” he said.
“The Philippines is a value proposition by its own self, and is not a pawn of anybody else in the geopolitical battle that’s raging within our area now,” Teodoro added.
In April, China condemned the Philippines for expanding the number of military bases in the country that US troops can use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
The Philippines and the US added four new military sites, with two of them near Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the AFP on Monday welcomed the announcement of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri that American defense officials are eyeing to convince their arms manufacturers to set up operations in the Philippines.
“It is the AFP’s desire to develop its capabilities to be self-reliant and be able to produce what it needs to defend our country,” AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said in a message to Manila Standard.
Zubiri earlier said he met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Lindsey Ford at the Pentagon last week, where they discussed modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as mutual concerns in the Indo-Pacific region.
“They’re willing to convince their arms manufacturers to move shop to the Philippines to partner with Filipino companies so that they will do the defense materials here in the Philippines,” the Senate leader said.