The country’s joint military activities with the United States will increase next year, following an agreement between the two countries and President Duterte’s earlier pronouncement that he wanted to be “friendlier” with the Americans.
From a total of 258 joint military engagements—including training and exercises—with the US this year, next year’s activities will increase to 261, and it will even cover territorial defense, according to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo M. Año.
These activities, Año said, include humanitarian assistance, disaster response and counterterrorism. Last year the President moved for the scuttling of military exercises with the US as he steered toward China. Security officials prevailed upon him, although he took away territorial defense from the coverage of such exercises.
Recently, Duterte said he wants to be friendlier with the US, which is now helping the country deal with terrorists fighting the government in Marawi City.
Año justified the increase of military engagements with the Americans against the earlier stand of Duterte.
“That was last year, every year it changes. As the President said: ‘I want to be friendlier to the US’. After all, the US is not our enemy, and China is also not our enemy. . .our utmost priority is the interest of the country,” Ano said on Thursday at the sidelines of China’s turnover of firearms to the Armed Forces. Duterte, Año added, recognized that the US remains as the top ally of the Philippines, so the provisions of the defense treaty with Washington should be carried out.
Año also said that the construction of facilities under the Enhanced Defense and Cooperation Agreement for the pivoting American troops will begin next year.
At least five military camps have been identified to host visiting American troops and their assets and equipment.