‘Cabinet not consulted on termination of Philippine-US exercises’

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star
�Cabinet not consulted on termination of Philippine-US exercises�
As far as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is concerned, the joint military exercises are mutually beneficial to the two countries.
AP Photo / Aaron Favila, file

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte never consulted his Cabinet before coming out with statements regarding the termination of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed yesterday.

During his confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments, Lorenzana was asked by Sen. Franklin Drilon about his position on the military exercises with US forces.

Drilon wanted to find out the actual status of the exercises
as well as the other defense agreements with the US in light of the statements made by Duterte that he wanted an end to the military drills with the Americans.

At the moment, Lorenzana said there was no decision to suspend or terminate the joint exercises, the Visiting Forces Agreement and other agreements with the US.

Lorenzana said he sought guidance from the President regarding these issues and was told to present his recommendations during the Cabinet meeting next month.

As far as Lorenzana is concerned, the joint military exercises are mutually beneficial to the two countries.

“It benefits our troops also. On the other hand, I think the Americans benefit more from these exercises with us,” Lorenzana said.

If the exercises are mutually beneficial as stated by Lorenzana, Drilon questioned why these would have to be terminated.

“I really don’t know because the President has been issuing these statements without first consulting the Cabinet,” Lorenzana said.

“If the President is really intent on what he is telling the media, I think I will recommend the scaling down of exercises next year – Balikatan, PHIBLEX and concentrate on maybe upgrading HADR (human assistance disaster response) and counterterrorism,” he added.

Lorenzana said the President should be able to come out with an official decision on the issues after next month’s Cabinet meeting.

Duterte previously stated the Balikatan exercises this year would be the last. He has also threatened to terminate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

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