THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States (US) military are conducting joint military exercises involving 1,700 personnel over the next two weeks.
The annual Balikatan exercises, which are aimed at further strengthening the partnership between the Philippines and the US under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), began on Monday, April 12, 2021.
AFP Chief of Staff Cirilito Sobejana said 700 military personnel from the US and 1,000 from the Philippines are participating in the exercises.
He said there will be minimal physical contact among the troops as a preventive measure against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“Medyo kakaiba ito sa previous Balikatan because of the pandemic,” said Sobejana.
“Meron tayong mga virtual portion of the exercise, meron din physical contact pero minimal,” he added.
US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d'Affaires John Law said such activities demonstrate the shared commitment to peace and stability, and the adaptability of US and Philippine forces.
The exercises were cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, the exercises are being held amid renewed tension between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea. (SunStar Philippines)