Philippine-US joint military drills kick off
09 May 2017 - 1:16
Manila: Philippine and US troops kicked off yesterday annual joint exercises that are smaller in scale than in years past, focusing on disaster response and counterterrorism while excluding territorial defense operations and maritime security.
The changes were directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had an antagonistic stance toward US security policies while expanding security ties with China and Russia.
Opening rites for the 12-day "Balikatan," or "Shoulder-to-Shoulder," exercises were led by Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Ambassador Sung Kim at the Philippine military's headquarters in Manila.
Officials said 5,400 personnel — 2,600 Americans and 2,800 Filipinos — will be involved, or about half the 11,000 troops who took part last year. The two countries are long-time treaty allies and are conducting the yearly training for the 33rd time.