The heightened tensions between Beijing and Taipei has prompted a coalition of Filipino communities in Taiwan to set a virtual meeting today (Sunday) with the Manila Economic and Cultural Office to discuss evacuation plans in case the conflict escalates.
This as Taiwan accused the Chinese army of simulating an invasion on its main island as Beijing doubled down on its retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei after announcing a suspension of cooperation with Washington on key issues.
“We have fears that is why we will hold a Zoom meeting with MECO… We need to know the evacuation plan in case the threat escalates,” Mercedita Kuan, secretary-general of Filcom Taiwan Northern, told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo in an interview Saturday.
Taipei residents, Kuan said, have been advised to download a government app that identifies some 5,771 shelters in the event of an invasion.
There are over 100,000 Filipinos working and staying in Taiwan, of which some 8,000 are undocumented, Kuan said.
MECO chairman Silvestre Bello III said his office and that of threePhilippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung have always been prepared for any scenario.
Quoting a report he received from Taipei, OFWs… Bello said: “Places of work and factories [have been] required ever since to have shelter and food provision for at least two weeks.”
Relations between the two superpowers have nosedived in the wake of Pelosi’s trip to China’s self-ruled neighbor – which it claims as its territory – prompting calls from the UN for an urgent de-escalation of tensions.
Beijing on Saturday continued some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan – exercises aimed at practicing a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island, analysts say.
Taipei said it observed “multiple” Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, believing them to be simulating an attack on the self-ruled democracy’s main island.
“Multiple batches of Communist planes and ships conducting activities around the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed the median line,” its defense ministry said in a statement, referring to a demarcation line that runs down the Taiwan Strait which Beijing does not recognise.
In a bid to show just how close China’s forces have been getting to Taiwan’s shores, Beijing’s military overnight released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
And the Eastern Command of the Chinese army shared a photo it said was taken of a warship patrolling in seas near Taiwan, the island’s shoreline clearly visible in the background.
According to Xinhua, Beijing has mobilized more than 100 planes and more than 10 frigates and destroyers – including the J-20 stealth fighter and a Type 055 destroyer, the crown jewels of China’s air and naval forces.
Beijing also said they would hold a live-fire drill in the southern part of the Yellow Sea – located between China and the Korean peninsula – from Saturday until August 15.
China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, has reported that Chinese missiles have flown directly over Taiwan during the exercises – a major escalation if confirmed.
But Taipei has remained defiant, insisting it will not be cowed by its “evil neighbor.”
The scale and intensity of China’s drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies, with the White House summoning China’s ambassador to Washington on Friday to rebuke him over Beijing’s actions.
And with tensions over Taiwan having risen to their highest level in nearly 30 years with an elevated risk of military conflict, experts told AFP the latest downturn in relations between the two superpowers could be deep and long-lasting.
“The relationship is in a very bad place right now,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund.
The suspension Friday of bilateral military and maritime dialogue while China continues its military exercises was “particularly worrisome,” she said.
“We don’t know what else they will do,” she said. “We just don’t know if this is just a temporary thing.”
John Culver, a former CIA Asia analyst, said in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Beijing’s main purpose with its military exercises was to change that status quo.
“I think that this is the new normal,” Culver said.