MANILA - The Philippine military said Wednesday it has scrapped two joint exercises with American troops, as President Rodrigo Duterte shifts the country's alliances away from the US.
Cancelled were the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (Carat), navy and marine drills geared towards territorial defense, said General Ricardo Visaya, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Duterte wanted to do away with "showy war games," said military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.
Phiblex focuses on beach landings, recovering islands from enemies, and neutralizing invaders. Carat, on the other hand, involves joint maneuvers at sea to repel an approaching enemy.
The Balikatan Exercises will continue, Padilla said, but no longer as a war game. It will focus instead on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).
Visaya said 258 of more than 260 joint exercises will remain. The Department of National Defense, meanwhile, said only half of 13 major joint exercises will be left.
The issue of territorial defense has also been removed from the priority areas of concern for the joint exercises.
Padilla said the AFP has been instructed to focus only on disaster response, counter-terrorism operations, and maritime security along the Philippines’ porous borders.
This is almost a complete departure from the policy of Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who sought the US’ help in building the military’s capability to defend itself from territorial incursions, especially in South China Sea.
Duterte, who has been vocal in his resentment of the US, has opted to befriend China instead.
Since Duterte’s high-profile visit to China, Chinese coast guard authorities have eased up its barricade in Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.