By Jonathan de Santos
CASIGURAN, Philippines - The Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and the US are smaller this year but the sizes of forces involved change yearly, military leaders said.
"We have not downsized (the exercises)," Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, said after a disaster response exercise in Aurora province on Monday.
He said the exercises last year, which included maritime defense drills, involved four military area commands while this year only involves the Northern Luzon Command and some elements of central command.
He said this was due to guidance from the government, which wanted Balikatan to focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) this year.
He clarified that HADR has been an alternating focus of the exercises, since disasters like typhoons are inevitable in the Philippines.
"What we do as a military is always with the guidance from our political leaders," he said.
He said the administration sees disasters as an imminent threat and that militaries should not just defend the country but save lives as well.
Read the full story at PhilStar