Philippines backtracks on canceling war games with US, EDCA stays
The Philippine government will continue its joint military exercises with the United States but in a downscaled level, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.
In an interview in Malacanang, Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte has "practically approved" all their recommendation regarding holding joint exercises with America .
"Our recommendation is the exercises will go on except to reduce the major exercises involving landing exercise," Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said his office recommended during the Cabinet meeting last week to maintain the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US . “It (EDCA) will remain," he said.
He said the exercises removed include the annual CARAT and Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX).
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to cancel the acquisition of 26,000 assault rifles from the United States .
In a speech in Malacanang during the signing of the executive order on the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Duterte said he would ask the police to look for another source of weapons.
"You know, I would like to announce now that the 26,000 of M16 that were ordered already, I am ordering its cancellation to the police," he said.
Duterte's cancellation came following a news report US Senator Ben Carden would the purchase amidst rising extrajudicial killings involving drug suspects under Duterte’s administration.
CARAT Philippines is part of a broader exercise the US Navy conducts with nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia to address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among participating forces. The Philippines has participated since the series began in 1995.
PHIBLEX is an annual US-Philippine military bilateral exercise that combines amphibious capabilities and live-fire training with humanitarian assistance efforts to strengthen interoperability and working relationships.
Lorenzana said what will remain are the annual Balikatan exercises and those which pertain to counter terrorism, humanitarian response, engineering projects and civic action.
Lorenzana said scaling down of joint exercises with the US forces would be part of the agenda during the Mutual Defense Board meeting with America takes place after the US elections.
Duterte earlier said he wanted to stop all the military exercises between the Philippines and the US and to abrogate EDCA.
He has been critical of the US , especially after it criticized the alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects amid his administration's all-out war against illegal drugs. Celerina Monte/DMS