Balikatan 2020 exercises canceled over COVID-19 crisis
The Philippines’ and the United States’ armed forces on Friday announced the cancellation of the conduct of the Balikatan 2020 military exercises slated for May 4 to 15 amid the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global crisis.
In separate statements, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii said the cancellation was due to concerns for the health and safety of the participating Filipino and American troops, as well as the local population in the selected venues.
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.
Balikatan 2020 was among the military exercises scheduled to push through despite the cancellation of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, which is set to end in August.
President Duterte earlier ordered the scrapping of the VFA over his dismay at supposed unequal treatment from the US government, which supposedly came to a head with the cancellation of the US visa of a staunch ally, former police chief and now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
The Philippines and the United States were supposed to conduct around 300 military exercises this year under the VFA.
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