Balikatan exercises to halt prior VFA’s full stop

Military exercises between the Philippines and the United States will not happen anymore once the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) expires in August according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Both countries have been holding the yearly ‘Balikatan’ military exercises for years, with more than 300 military exercises and engagements planned this 2020.

Lorenzana said plans that fall within the 180-day period after the notice of termination of the VFA remains in force will proceed as scheduled but also said “our American counterparts may opt to discontinue the scheduled exercises before the 180 days are up.”

A former military envoy to Washington, Lorenzana said that “once the termination is final, we will cease to have exercises with them.”

Gabriela party-list on Thursday called for the pure cancellation of Balikatan.

“Duterte cannot claim he is serious with the VFA’s termination but allow business as usual with the Balikatan exercises,” Gabriela said. The party-list has been advocating for the termination of the VFA and lessening the number of American troops in Philippine soil.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper told media in a phone briefing on Monday that the effects of the VFA would be on the “about 300 engagements and exercises that we conduct bilaterally with the Philippines.”

“What’s at risk without a VFA? Well, without a VFA, it puts at risk things like these engagements, like these exercises,” he said.

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