19 April 2017

News Story: With war games dropped, US-Philippines Balikatan shifts focus

By Patricia Lourdes Viray

MANILA, Philippines — The first US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises under the Duterte administration will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

The Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement earlier announced that war games have been dropped from the annual exercises between Filipino and American troops.

"The focus of Balikatan has been shifted to, out of the guidance of the president following receipt of the memos that we got and the guidance of the secretary because it is always definite that we are going to experience so many disasters one after the other every year, we have focused the concept of Balikatan to address our capability together to address humanitarian assistance and disaster response," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in an interview with CNN Philippines' "The Source" on Tuesday.

The 10-day exercises, which will kick off in May, will also focus on counter-terrorism as the country battles Islamic militants in Mindanao.

Padilla noted that there have been a series of small exercises last year when Duterte took office but the Balikatan exercises this year would be the first one after his suggestion to cancel the drills.

There will be no more live-fire exercises this year as the joint military exercises will focus on humanitarian and civil assistance.

Read the full story at PhilStar