Manila recently granted the US entry to four more locations in strategic areas of the Philippines, with three of the new sites facing north toward Taiwan and one near an island in the disputed South China Sea.
Under its 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Washington now has access to a total of nine military sites in the country.
The development comes at a time of growing geopolitical tension over self-ruled Taiwan and concerns over China’s conduct in the resource-rich waterway Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
“The National Security Council wishes to clarify that the Philippines has no intention of interfering in the Taiwan issue and will not allow itself to be used by other countries to interfere in the said issue,” NSC spokesperson, assistant director-general Jonathan Malaya, said in a statement issued on Saturday.
Increased security cooperation between Manila and Washington was “meant to develop the capabilities” of the Philippine military, Malaya said.
“We observe the One China policy and subscribe to the ASEAN principle of non-interference in approaching regional issues,” he added.
“Our primary concern in Taiwan is the safety and well-being of the more than 150,000 Filipinos living and working on the island, and we take grave exception to any effort by guests in our country to use this to fearmonger and intimidate us.”
The statement came a day after Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said Manila was fueling geopolitical tension in the Asia-Pacific.
“Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan Strait to serve its geopolitical goals,” Huang said on Friday while addressing a forum in Manila.
“The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs [Overseas Filipino Workers].”
The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Huang’s statement also sparked anger among Filipinos, with lawmakers chiding the envoy on Sunday.
“These are truly disgraceful statements from Ambassador Huang Xilian. How dare he threaten us,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Our OFWs in Taiwan will continue to work where they work. End of story. Filipinos will thrive and make a living according to our wishes.
“He, along with his country’s ships and artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, should pack up and leave,” Hontiveros added, in reference to the Philippine part of the South China Sea.
Akbayan, one of the most prominent progressive political parties in the Philippines, has urged the government to expel the Chinese diplomat.
“How dare [Huang] barter with our people’s lives to promote Beijing’s hegemonic agenda in the region,” the party said in a statement.
“He has no right to threaten our citizens while enjoying our country’s hospitality.”