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Philippines must prepare as external threats grow, president says

MANILA — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said the country should be prepared for any eventuality because of more pronounced external threats driven by heightened tension in the Indo-Pacific.

The Philippines' proximity to Taiwan puts it in China's area of interest, Marcos said in a speech to troops at a military camp in Isabela province, in a northern region facing the democratically governed island which is viewed by Beijing as its own territory.

"The external threat now has become more pronounced, has become more worrisome, and that is why we have to prepare," Marcos told the troops on June 10. His remarks were shared by the presidential palace on June 11.

The Philippines was not trying to redraw lines of sovereign territory including its exclusive economic zone, and the country was committed to defend itself while engaging in diplomacy, Marcos said.

China's embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Philippines has a longstanding territorial spat with China, which claims almost all of the South China Sea, a conduit for more than US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in annual ship commerce.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China's claims in 2016, a decision Beijing has rejected.

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