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)
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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.


Manila turns ships, hotels into isolation centers

A fireman sprays disinfectant from the back of a firetruck to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 during a localized quarantine in Manila. (AP)
Updated 54 min 28 sec ago

Manila turns ships, hotels into isolation centers

  • Duterte unveils record $4bn aid package as number of COVID-19 cases passes 2,000

MANILA: The Philippines on Tuesday started earmarking hotels, ships, gyms, and convention centers for use as quarantine areas as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases swept past the 2,000 mark.

The move coincided with an announcement by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to allocate 200 billion pesos ($4 billion) toward helping low-income households severely affected by the health crisis.
“They are the ones in the informal sector and those who live day-to-day on subsistence wages or ‘no-work, no-pay’ arrangements,” he said.
On Tuesday the Philippines recorded 538 new COVID-19 infections – the highest single-day increase since the start of the outbreak — taking the total number of cases in the country to 2,084, with 88 deaths and 49 recovered patients.
Cabinet secretary and spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Karlo Nograles said the country’s health, transportation, and defense departments would be working together to ensure delivery of personal protective equipment for “the front-liners on the ground” fighting the spread of COVID-19.
He added that authorities had been asked to identify suitable buildings and facilities that could be used as quarantine or isolation centers.
Following the arrival of more COVID-19 test kits from abroad, Duterte’s government announced extra measures to tackle the pandemic in anticipation of a further surge in the number of infection cases.
Nograles said the Department of Transportation had been tasked with identifying maritime vessels that could serve as floating quarantine centers, while the Department of Tourism had been asked to draw up a list of hotels and accommodation establishments that could also be made available for patient care.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways, in cooperation with private entities, will convert the Philippine International Convention Center, World Trade Center, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex into isolation facilities.
Local government units (LGUs) will be in charge of furbishing provincial, city, municipal, and barangay quarantine facilities.

FASTFACT

Luzon island, the country’s largest and most populous island, has been under lockdown since March 17 and will remain so until at least April 12.

The LGUs have also been ordered to help in the provision of basic necessities and local transport for residents, and identify individuals to carry out intensive contact tracing, assessments and disinfection operations in their respective localities.
Luzon island, the country’s largest and most populous island, has been under lockdown since March 17 and will remain so until at least April 12.
In an address to the nation on Monday, Duterte announced that the government was undertaking several key measures to overcome and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“We have allotted 200 billion pesos for low-income households who are severely affected by the current crisis,” he said, adding that it was the largest aid package in the Philippines’ history to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to the quarantine measures.
He also gave reassurances over supplies of food and other essential goods while imposing a price freeze on commodities.
“We are marshaling and deploying the resources of government to provide our frontline health workers with everything they require so they can save as many lives as possible.
“We are now procuring medical supplies, devices and personal protective equipment. About 1 million medical protective items are being acquired right now, with the government and the private sector working together to purchase or produce the necessary quantities,” Duterte added. The country’s capacity to conduct broader tests has also been ramped up to help give a more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.