New PH flag raised on island nearest Taiwan
MANILA, Philippines — For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino sailors and Marines on Saturday, April 1, 2023, raised the Philippine flag on Mavulis, the country’s northernmost island closest to Taiwan and its “first line of defense” in Northern Luzon.
The island was the first stop of the monthlong patrol around the country of BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), one of the two South Korea-built frigates of the Philippine Navy, as part of “Operation Bantay-Layag” which kicked off on March 31.
The flag hoisted at the highest peak of the island was a new one, replacing the tattered banner that had been flying over Mavulis in the past years.
“The event was the first ceremony ever held on the island since the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic and became an avenue for the replacement of the old Philippine flag damaged and frayed by the violent storms of the previous years,” the Philippine Navy said on Sunday.
The flag “symbolizes and asserts sovereignty over the island,” the Navy said.
While on Mavulis, the ship’s crew also assisted the troops in repairing the island’s generator and provided them with food and drinking water.
Mavulis, located less than 150 kilometers from Taiwan’s southern tip, is manned by a few Marines guarding a small shelter. It is part of the archipelagic province of Batanes.
Bantay-Layag aims to intensify the country’s naval presence along its maritime borders for territorial defense, according to the Navy.
Fresh batch of troops
The flag-raising came several days after the Navy deployed a fresh batch of troops and supplies to the island through the BRP Conrado Yap.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to retake the self-governing island. Beijing has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan following then-United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to its capital Taipei in August last year.
The Philippines has ramped up its defense cooperation with the United States and other partners under President Marcos amid China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and the potential invasion of Taiwan.
In February, the Philippine leader told Japanese media that it was “very hard to imagine a scenario where the Philippines will not somehow get involved” in a possible Taiwan conflict as the country’s closest neighbor in the north.
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