Philippines to end joint military drills with US

Signed in 1998 and ratified in 1999, the VFA provides legal cover to American troops temporarily deployed in the Philippines to participate in military activities including joint exercises. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 February 2020

Philippines to end joint military drills with US

  • Over 300 military exercises between the two armed forces are scheduled for this year

MANILA: Joint combat drills between Philippine and US forces will end with the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in August, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.

“Once the termination is final, we will cease to have exercises with them,” Lorenzana said in his first public statement since the Philippines formally served notice of the termination of the VFA to the US.

Signed in 1998 and ratified in 1999, the VFA provides legal cover to American troops temporarily deployed in the Philippines to participate in military activities including joint exercises.

Article IX of the VFA says: “This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.”

However, Lorenzana said military drills between the Philippines and US armed forces scheduled to take place while the VFA is still in effect will still happen.

“With the formal serving of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, this year’s planned military exercises with the Americans shall proceed as scheduled within the 180 days that the VFA remains in force,” Lorenzana explained.

SPEEDREAD

Over 300 military exercises between the two armed forces are scheduled for this year, including the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercise scheduled to take place May 3 to 15.

This year marks the 36th iteration of the annual training event, which is focused on a variety of missions including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counterterrorism, and mutual defense. 

The Balikatan exercise, the most prominent of the Philippines-US joint exercises, also focuses on interoperability training events.

Lorenzana, however, said their American counterparts “may opt to discontinue the scheduled exercises before the 180 days are up.”

On Wednesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Felimon Santos said around half of the 318 activities laid out this year with their US counterparts will be affected once the VFA is terminated.

Santos added that the Armed Forces support President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to scrap the agreement, and said that the Philippines will survive without the VFA.

The AFP chief also said that to make up for losing the VFA with the US, the Philippines will increase its engagements with other countries, including Japan and Australia, and will look to sign VFAs with such allies.


Zimbabwe tightens coronavirus lockdown in capital Harare

Updated 02 June 2020

Zimbabwe tightens coronavirus lockdown in capital Harare

  • Opposition movement said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was trying to suppress protests over a worsening economy
  • Coronavirus infections have more than tripled to 203 in the last few days

HARARE: Zimbabwean troops and police on Tuesday tightened the coronavirus lockdown in the capital Harare, blocking many cars and buses from entering the central business district as cases of infections increased.
But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was trying to suppress protests over a worsening economy and to stop MDC supporters from gathering at the courts where the lawyer for its leader was due to appear after being arrested on Monday.
Coronavirus infections have more than tripled to 203 in the last few days. Mnangagwa had eased the lockdown since it was first imposed at the end of March.
On Tuesday, however, police and soldiers turned away many commuters and cars, including those with work letters, at check points leading into town except critical staff like health workers as well as state employees, witnesses said.
“Please note that it is not everyone who should be in the CBD (central business district),” the police said in a statement.
A Reuters witness saw a group of soldiers and police in downtown Harare ordering people to leave the city center and shops to close.
By lunchtime businesses in downtown had shut, but in another part of town, where government offices are located, some businesses, including supermarkets and banks, were open.
The state-owned Herald newspaper, which reflects government thinking, published pictures on its website of people walking back home on foot.
There were no similar reports from other cities.
The MDC has accused the government of using curbs on movements to persecute its members and sees a political motive behind Monday intensifications of the lockdown.
“So if this is about Covid-19 why is it only happening in Harare? This appears to be more about politics than medicine or health,” MDC senator David Coltart wrote on Twitter.