The US military has canceled the joint military exercises between American and Philippine troops on May 4 to 15 due to the threat posed by the coronavirus disease.
In a statement released by the US Embassy in Manila, the US Indo-Pacific Command said the cancellation of the Balikatan exercises was in accordance with the international travel restrictions implemented by the two countries.
Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said the Balikatan was also suspended due to the concerns for the health and safety of the participating forces and local populations near the planned exercise areas.
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” Davidson said.
“We remain deeply committed to our long-standing alliance and friendship,” he said.
Philippine military spokesmen contacted by AFP in Manila on Friday declined immediate comment on the announcement made by the Hawaii-based Indo-Pacific Command.
The United States now has the largest number of confirmed infections in the world while the Philippines, with limited testing, has reported around 700 cases.
The US troops who take part in Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) usually come from its bases in Japan and South Korea, which have both been hit hard by the virus.
The Balikatan is an annual exercise between forces from the US and the Philippines, which also involves participation from Australia.
More than 10,000 contingents from the Philippines and other countries were supposed to participate in the military training, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. With Nash Maulana, Jesus Malabanan and AFP