President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told troops of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID) of the Philippine Army to be prepared for potential outcomes and to shift their mindset toward defending the country’s territory in the face of increasing external threats caused by geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

Marcos was at Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, on Monday, June 10, when he told Army troops that the Philippines’ proximity to Taiwan places it in the scope of China, making it critical that the northern region be well-prepared.

“And that is why—the external threat now has become more pronounced, has become more worrisome. And that is why we have to prepare,” President Marcos told the members of the 5th ID. “So, that is the mission that you have before you. Now, you have two missions, whereas before it was only internal security.”

The Philippines, although not desiring to alter its boundaries, must maintain a dedication to safeguarding its sovereignty, he said.

President Marcos additionally pointed out the government’s efforts to maintain peace in the region through diplomatic means and cooperation with allies, as illustrated by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the U.S.

“We are not trying to take territory. We are not trying to redraw the lines of sovereign territory, the EEZ, the baseline,” he said.

“Hindi natin binabago anything na kahit isang—not even one inch. Ngunit hindi tayo puwedeng pumayag na kukunin naman ‘yan sa atin.”

The President said the mission of the 5th ID now includes territorial defense from external threats, with a focus on providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with necessary equipment, training, and facilities to enhance their capabilities.

He also touched on the domestic security threats posed by various insurgent groups, highlighting efforts to combat these threats and declare certain regions insurgency-free.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Tala covers parts of Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions and the entire Cordillera Administrative Region, supervising the 501st, 502nd, and 503rd Infantry Brigades, Joint Task Group Baguio, Philippine Air Force (PAF) Tactical Operations Group 1, and Tactical Operations Group 2.

Among the current domestic security threats are the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC) and Komiteng Rehiyon Cagayan Valley (KRCV) groups.

Two provinces (Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya) were declared insurgency-free on October 10, 2022 and December 18, 2023, respectively, as well as other parts of Isabela (Ilagan City and several municipalities).

Government forces have dismantled four communist terrorist group (CTG) operating units: two KRCV (September 2022); one KRCV and one Komiteng Larangan Guerilla-ICRC in December last year.