By Audrey Morallo
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine armed forces on Monday acknowledged that political considerations had tilted this year’s military exercise with the US to humanitarian crisis and disaster response instead of territorial defense and maritime security.
Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, the Philippine exercise director of the 2017 Balikatan Exercise with the US, said that the guidance on the focus of the bilateral military engagement came from “political authorities,” and, at this point, the priority for the government of President Rodrigo Duterte is humanitarian and disaster response and counterterrorism.
“This exercise scenario is being done by both countries. Of course, we get the guidance from political authorities. So, the political authorities give the guidance to us on the priority at this point in time. The priority according to the president is HADR (humanitarian assistance, disaster relief) and counterterrorism,” Lactao said in a press conference after the opening of the 33rd Balikatan Exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters.
“The focus of the guidance that was given to the AFP and the Defense department is HADR and counter-terrorism,” he said.
This year’s military drills involve almost 5,000 Philippine and American soldiers with military forces from Australia and Japan participating in some events.
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