US, Philippines begin annual military drills

US, Philippines begin annual military drills
US, Philippines begin annual military drills
Author

10 May, 2017

The 12-day exercise won't include the usual live-fire exercises geared toward territorial defense or maritime security, officials said.

Eight other militaries, including the armed forces of Australia and Japan, are in the Philippines to participate in the annual Balikatan exercises between Philippines and the US.

However, while the President allowed the annual bilateral exercise to remain, he said it should only focus in areas of humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism, and nothing more.

After this year's launch, the joint military exercise will move to the country's different naval stations in Luzon and the Visayas, including those in Panay, Leyte, Palawan and Samar.

They will involve 2,600 American soldiers and 2,800 Filipino troops, according to both sides.

There will also be no focus on boosting the Philippines' maritime defence capabilities, which in previous years had been widely seen as a show of strength against Beijing over competing claims in the South China Sea. "I'm very confident that our cooperation and collaboration and our exercises will continue to progress for many, many years and decades".

The change in focus of the drill from territorial defence operations was instructed by Duterte, who has indicated a shift in foreign policy to expand security ties with Russian Federation and China.

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Those expected to witness the opening ceremony are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief Eduaro Ano, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo US Ambassador Sung Kim and dozens of local and foreign journalists from China and Taiwan.

Participating US troops for this year's Balikatan are placed at 2,600 personnel, with the Philippine side fielding in 2,800.

"We heed to the intentions of the president", Sayson said.

Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao and III Marine Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the exercise's directors, gave upbeat answers to reporters' questions about the drills.

With that, Sayson said all participating units, whether on staff exercise or command post exercise, will focus on responses to the particular scenario.

The American co-director of this year's Balikatan, Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, said the United States military hoped the exercises would grow again in future editions.

Nicholson, in the same press briefing, said that anytime they get a chance to work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a privilege for them.


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