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PH, US to hold military drills in April, AFP says

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This year’s “Balikatan” military exercises between American and Filipino troops will take place in April, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a statement Monday.

“The AFP and the US Armed Forces are once again holding the 38th iteration of annual bilateral ‘Balikatan’ exercises. although this is a bilateral activity, the AFP takes the lead in planning and execution, supported by the US Armed Forces with other like-minded nations as observers,” he said.

Aguilar said “Balikatan” 38-2023 will help the AFP in developing its external defense capabilities and fulfilling its obligations to other countries in the region in terms of countering terrorism and other security threats.

The AFP neither indicated the exact dates of the exercises nor gave an exact number of participating American and Filipino military personnel for this year’s exercises.

However, it said the maneuvers will be held in the areas of jurisdiction of the Northern Luzon Command, Visayas Command and Western Command.

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Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday urged the top officers of the AFP to “keep up with the times” and be more agile in fostering partnerships as the global situation becomes “more and more complicated.”

The President made this remark in a speech at the oath-taking ceremony of newly promoted generals and flag rank officers of the AFP in Malacañang.

Mr. Marcos also told the AFP top brass: “We, therefore, have to be more agile in our responses not only in the military area but also in diplomacy, also in geopolitical negotiations, and in our partnerships that we foster with our friends and allies around the world.”

The President sought to strengthen the country’s collaboration with various government agencies, allies, partners, and other stakeholders to safeguard and advance the country’s national interest amid tensions and challenges.

The role of the AFP and its commanders, according to the President, has “certainly changed,” hence the need to continue to keep up with the times.

“Not only has the situation – the geopolitical situation become more complex, even the method of warfighting has become more complex with the new technologies, with the new capabilities that have become available to us,” Mr. Marcos pointed out.

This is why the military must ensure it knows “very well how to use the tools that are given us to the best effect for the national interest,” he said.

“The AFP has never failed in that mission, and I only hope to continue to inspire to keep up the good work and keep the Philippines safe,” Mr. Marcos pointed out.

Aguilar also said the AFP is grateful for the support extended by Senators Francis Tolentino, Francis Escudero and Sherwin Gatchalian to the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement where the Philippines and US both agreed on four new locations as EDCA sites last week.

“This manifestation of support is in line with our treaty obligation as contained in the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951,” he added.

In other developments:

* Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro on Monday welcomed the decision of the United States and Philippines to expand the EDCA. “I support that decision. It is in our national interest to pursue and expand our defense partnership with the United States to deter further aggression from China in the West Philippine Sea and possible Chinese seizure of islets that belong to us under international law,” he said.

* Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba on Monday said he is not keen on having an EDCA site be established in his province. Mamba said he is not yet being officially informed about the matter, but believes that Cagayanon would also oppose it. “We are willing to die in field for our country and our province, but not with these foreign [people]. Why should we fight their battles and their wars?” he added.

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