US-PH joint drills to be trimmed down; EDCA to continue—Lorenzana
President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to continue the holding of combined and joined military training between the Philippine and US military but some of it would be scrapped, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“The President has approved practically all our recommendations,” he said in a news release on Wednesday.
Duterte, however, ordered to discontinue assault exercises and some bilateral drills between both forces, but said that other joint trainings with other countries would push through as scheduled.
In a separate interview with reporters on Tuesday, Arsenio Andolong of the Department of National Defense Public Affairs Service, said that the joint drills between the Philippines and US will be reduced from 13 to around six or seven.
Two of the exercises that would be removed are the Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) and the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).
The Balikatan exercises will be retained but will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, counterterrorism and a little of anti-narcotics exercises.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, an executive agreement between the Philippines and US, would still be implemented after the President gave his go-signal, Lorenzana said.
“EDCA seeks to develop interoperability and capacity-building for external defense, maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian and disaster response,” the news release said.
The recommendations approved by Duterte will be presented to the US panel of Mutual Defense Board – Security Engagement Board to be held later this month.
Other recommendations presented by the Department of National Defense at the cabinet meeting last Monday include the refocusing of bilateral activities on command post exercises, tabletop exercises, staff exercises and simulation exercises and trainings; maintenance of bilateral humanitarian and disaster response and counter-terrorism exercises; and giving focus on non-traditional security concerns such as counter-narcotics and translational crimes.
The defense secretary also recommended putting more weight on civic action and engineering projects for civilian communities and to boost the Self-Reliant Defense Program. JE
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