PH, US military chiefs meet to set new direction of war games

Carmela Fonbuena
The Philippines will push to reduce training exercises with the country's treaty ally, particularly the naval drills in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)

SCALING BACK. This file photo shows US soldiers and their Filipino counterparts joining forces in an Amphibious Landing operation as part of the 2015 Balikatan Exercises at the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) of the Philippine Navy in San Antonio, Zambales province. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command (US Pacom) will meet in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday morning, November 22, to plan and set the new direction of joint military exercises. 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to end war games with the US altogether, but a compromise was reached after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana presented the benefits of continued cooperation. (READ: PH, US war games to continue; EDCA to be implemented

AFP chief General Ricardo Visaya and US Pacom chief Admiral Harry Harris will co-chair this year’s Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) to be held at the Philippine military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. Officials of the defense and foreign affairs departments will also be present.

The Philippines will push to reduce training exercises with the country’s treaty ally, particularly the naval drills in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The country will also push to refocus the exercises towards counter-terrorism humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (READ: The ‘last’ war games in the West Philippine Sea

Harris, in an interview last week, said he is “optimistic” about today’s meeting. He expects what he called the “refocusing or a rescoping of some of the bigger exercises in 2017.

There are 3 major war games – Balikatan, the Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex), and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) – out of 13 joint exercises conducted last year.

The Balikatan is expected to continue, but the Philippines will move to scrap CARAT and Phiblex, which both involve assault-type landing exercises and ship-to-ship drills. – Rappler.com