Philippines reduces joint military drills with US

November 23, 2016 10:30 pm

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a pilot’s jacket, gestures on Tuesday with Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana, in white, and Armed Forces Chief Ricardo Visaya, second from left, at Philippine air force headquarters in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila. (Photo by AP)

The Philippines will be holding less joint drills with the US next year, says the Southeast Asian country’s chief, indicating President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong determination to reduce ties with Washington.
The Philippines’ Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces General Ricardo Visaya said on Wednesday that as many as five exercises would be pulled from the 2017 schedule, bringing the total joint exercises to “around 258.”
According to the general, the Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) and the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) were two of the drills that were called off. He did not identify the other three.
Phiblex war games mainly focused on Beach landings, recovering enemy-captured islands, and neutralizing aggressive forces.
Carat, meanwhile, involved sea maneuvers to push back enemy forces as they were approaching the mainland.
Manila was also weighing a cut in the number of troops involved in the exercises, Visaya said, noting that the number would vary nonetheless based on the type of the drill.
Asked about Washington’s reaction to the decision, Visaya said that Manila “can always change some exercises based on the guidance of our president.”
Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, a Philippine military spokesman, said that Duterte himself took the decision as he wanted to do away with “showy war games.”
According to Padilla, the changes would also include the Balikatan Exercises, which would continue but not as a war game.
The Philippines’ Department of National Defense had announced earlier that Manila intended to reduce assault exercises and focus on civic action exercises instead.
The decision follows a number of major steps by Manila to distance itself from Washington.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) shaking hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the -Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

In October, Duterte announced a military and economic “separation” from the US, calling on American military personnel to leave the Philippines.
Last month, he went on a tirade against US President Barack Obama, telling him to “go to hell,” adding that Washington had to quit treating Manila like a “dog with a leash.”
Losing the Philippines, a longtime close ally, could cause problems for the US in a region where China’s influence has been soaring.
Duterte has shown strong interest in expanding ties with China and Russia, causing even more headache in Washington.
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