May 7, 2017
The annual joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, which will kick off Monday, will focus on disaster damage mitigation, Malacanang said on Sunday.
This year's Balikatan exercises were different from the previous drills, which also include war games.
"The two-week Balikatan joint military exercises between the United States military and our Armed Forces of the Philippines to be formally launched tomorrow at Camp Aguinaldo will focus on improving our capabilities for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as in counter-terrorism operations," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement.
He said national security issues now include environmental hazards.
"Balikatan 2017 will be an exercise in partnership for mitigating possible damages due to disasters both natural and man-made," he said.
During the previous joint exercises, the Filipino and American forces were also engaged in war games.
But when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year, he ordered the Defense department to halt war games between the Filipino and American forces.
He even planned to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US after former US President Barack Obama criticized the Duterte administration on its bloody war against illegal drugs.
But with Donald Trump as the new president of US, Duterte apparently has softened his stance against America. According to Duterte, who already had two phone conversations with Trump, the US leader has been supporting his campaign against illegal drugs.
Trump even invited Duterte to the White House. The Filipino leader has not made any decision yet if he would accept the invitation. (Celerina Monte/DMS)
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