Army official: Balikatan exercises not directed to China
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - March 27, 2016 - 8:34pm

MANILA, Philippines – The Balikatan joint military drills are not directed to any country despite China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a military official clarified on Monday.

Balikatan 2016 Assistant Exercise Director Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago said that China should not be threatened by the Balikatan exercises between American and Filipino troops.

"If they will be invited as observers, they would see that this is not directed at anyone because what we do is practice a generic scenario that does not address any of the threats so even China should not be threatened by what we are doing," Santiago said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

One of the exercises includes a scenario wherein Filipino troops will try to recapture a territory that has been occupied by foreign forces.

Santiago clarified that the recapturing scenario is part of the defense exercise of Filipino forces.

"Any type of aggression from any other country would involve seizing of an island and therefore as part of our defense. In fact, we are assuming that we lost the island so we have to retake it," Santiago said.

About 10,000 troops from Australia, the Philippines and the US will participate in the Balikatan exercises from April 4 to 15. Japanese forces have also been invited as observers in the joint military drills.

Santiago noted that this is the one of the biggest Balikatan exercises as five unit commands – the Western Command in Palawan, the Northern Luzon Command in Tarlac, the Central Command in Cebu and Panay, the Southern Luzon Command in Lucena and the Joint Task Force in Manila – are involved this year.

American troops joining the joint military drills are expected to start arriving in the Philippines today.

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