By Hilda Austria

SAFETY. Senator Imee Marcos, chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations, quizzes Philippine defense officials on the objectives of the country’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States on Wednesday (April 19, 2023). Marcos on Thursday urged the government to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

POZORRUBIO, Pangasinan – Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on Thursday said the Philippine government should prioritize the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan in case tension there escalates.

“Sigurado ako na si Sec. Ople (Secretary Susan Ople of Migrant Workers of the Philippines) gagawa ng paraan kasi marami-rami ang 200,000 na Filipino na kailangan i-repatriate kung sakali at magkagulo. So kailangan i-priority mga iyan at Filipino ang mga iyan (I am sure Sec. Ople will take care of it since 200,000 Filipino is a lot to repatriate in case there will be chaos. So we need to prioritize them because they are Filipinos),” she told the media here.

Marcos, who was in the province to lead a distribution of financial assistance to Pangasinenses, said Filipinos should not get engaged in other countries’ conflicts.

“At the same time, mahalaga din ang buong Ilocandia kaya wag tayo makikisangkot sa giyera na hindi sa atin dahil wala naman tayong panlaban at hindi naman natin kaaway ang sinuman (At the same time, the whole of Ilocandia is important so we need not get involved in a war that is not ours because we don’t have enough weaponry and we are not enemies with anyone),” she said.

During a general inquiry on Tuesday, Marcos questioned Department of National Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo over the government’s plan to build more military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), saying the sites chosen were “random and no longer purposeful” with regard to the efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Modernization, she said, should be the primary goal in implementing the EDCA, besides disaster preparedness, maritime security, and counterterrorism.

“Are we going to just rely on foreigners to defend us while our armed forces remain neglected, outdated, and completely abject in the face of any external threats?” Marcos asked.

She admitted that her questions were difficult to answer but necessary.

“Medyo mahirap sagutin mga tanong nagpapaumanhin nga ako sa ating mga opsiyal pero kinakailangan tanungin kung ano mangyayari sa atin kasi importante na hindi tayo madadamay (My questions were difficult to answer so I apologize to the officials but these are needed to be answered on what will happen to us because it is important that we do not get involved),” Marcos said.

She added that although Filipinos are brave and ready to sacrifice themselves for the country, they do not need to volunteer for other nations’ wars.

“Our army and other enforcers are ready when it comes to bravery but in terms of missiles, anti-drone, anti-aircraft, it seems we do not have those yet,” she said.

Marcos vowed to revisit the EDCA regulations.

“Kung gaano kadami at kung saan-saan sila at kung puwede mag-stay nang ganon katagal. Dapat may kaunting regulasyon at alam pa rin ng Filipino kung sino mga nandito sa ating bansa (We will look into the number of participants and their locations and where they are allowed to stay. There should be some sort of regulation and Filipinos should also know who are here in our country),” she added. (PNA)