MANILA, Philippines - The Balikatan exercise and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US will continue but some bilateral military drills would be stopped, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.
“Yearly, it will continue. What will remain are drills on counter-terrorism, humanitarian response, special operations on counterterrorism, engineering projects, civic action,” Lorenzana told reporters in Malacañang.
Lorenzana said the PHIBLEX amphibious exercises involving Marine troops and the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) drills of navy forces would be discontinued.
“Practically he (President Duterte) approved all our recommendations. The exercises will go on,” he said.
With regard to EDCA, Lorenzana said the agreement would not be abrogated. “(EDCA) will remain,” he said.
Last month, Duterte hinted at dropping EDCA, a deal that provides the US greater access to Philippine bases.
“I said ‘separate,’ separate, yes. You have the EDCA. Well, forget it if I stay here long enough,” the President said in a press briefing last Oct. 25.
Duterte said he only wants to see Filipino soldiers in the country. “I do not want to see any military man of any other nation except the Filipino soldiers. That’s what I want. That’s the long and short of it. I want an independent policy wherein I won’t be subservient to anyone,” he added.
Duterte had called for a review of EDCA, noting that the agreement did not have the signature of a Philippine president. The agreement was signed by then US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and then defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin two years ago.