PHL, US begin this year's Balikatan

Katrina Barker
May 9, 2017

Asked why the focus had moved away from territorial defense and maritime security, Lactao said political authorities set the priorities but that military skills used for humanitarian assistance, disaster response and counterterrorism are the same as those needed in conventional operations.

The Philippines and United States launched annual military exercises in Manila on Monday but the longtime allies scaled them down in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's pivot to China and Russian Federation.

United States and China have been exchanging heated remarks due to their diverse foreign policy on the disputed South China Sea.

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.

However, the number of participating troops - which was 11,000 past year - had been cut down by more than half.

But this year's Balikatan exercise will focus more on Human Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) instead on the previous military tactics and jungle survival.

Soldiers from Australia and Japan also are participating in the exercises, Sayson said.

The PH-U.S. joint military drills, which opened at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday, would last for two weeks.

During a trip to Beijing a year ago, Duterte, a self-described socialist, announced that he was in the "ideological flow" of China's communist rulers.

"This year's exercises provide both the armed forces of the Philippines and the USA the necessary capability training in responding to disasters, conducting rescue operations during crisis and meeting the challenges of violent extremism", he added.

Evidence pointing to some strain on the military alliance of the two countries came after it was announced that the two sides would not hold Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) this year.

This year's exercises will be based on a scenario of troops responding to a major storm hitting the eastern Philippines, then cutting across the heavily-populated areas of the country, including the capital, Manila.

The previous Aquino administration also wanted a visiting forces agreement with Japan, but this has so far not been raised in the new government of President Rodrigo Duterte. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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