Joint military exercises to strengthen PH, US alliance
An Army official expressed belief that the conduct of the Philippine-United States Military Exercises, SALAKNIB and Balikatan 2019, will further strengthen alliance between the two countries.
American and Filipino soldiers pose for a group picture in front of M113 Armored Personnel Carriers. (US Emabassy in the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Brig. Gen. Lenard T. Agustin, commander of the Seventh Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, made the remark after attending as guest of honor and speaker the opening ceremony for the SALAKNIB Exercises held at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.
“Being the administrator of Fort Ramon Magsaysay, it is both a pleasure and an opportunity for the 7th ID to welcome the participants of SALAKNIB and BALIKATAN 2019,” Agustin said.
“We hope that the exercises will not only strengthen the Philippine-US alliance, but will contribute to the security and stability of our countries,” he added.
Agustin conveyed his expectations to the military units, both foreign and local, that will be involved in SALAKNIB Exercise to maximize their learning. He also said that the military exercises are good avenues for comparing notes for the ever-changing operational environment.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and U.S. Army Pacific will participate in Exercise SALAKNIB 2019, which will be conducted in and around Fort Magsaysay, Palayan, and Nueva Ecija, Philippines from March 4 to 24.
More than 1,600 soldiers will participate in this year’s exercise, consisting of a jungle field training exercise (FTX), a bilateral Command Post Exercise (CPX), various Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs), as well as Cooperative Health Engagements (CHE) and Humanitarian Civic Action (HCA) projects.
Agustin said Exercise SALAKNIB 2019 provides a venue for the exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures for Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, demonstrating U.S. and Philippine resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region.
SALAKNIB is an annual, bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific and hosted by the Philippine Army.
Both the Philippine and US governments said the exercise will contribute to and enhance U.S. and Philippine defense readiness and tactical interoperability while strengthening multinational relationships.
SALAKNIB is an army-to-army training exchange between the Philippine Army and United States Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) which is focused on enhancing the skill competencies of both armies in the conduct of field specialization in support to counter-terrorist operations.
It is one of the two military exercises to be conducted with the foreign forces this year, the other being the Balikatan exercises.
The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed in 1998 between the Philippines and the American government led to the establishment of the military exercises with the foreign forces. The series of bilateral exercises is annually planned in response to the challenges and needs of each country and designed to enhance the armed forces capability of both countries.
SALAKNIB is the first phase SABAK 2019 which stands for SALAKNIB-BALIKATAN. While, Balikatan, the second phase of the military exercise, is an annual military-to-military training exchange between the Armed Forces of the Philippine and US Pacific Command (USPACOM).
The First Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) which was activated on December 15, 2018 is the unit from the Philippine Army that is involved in the military exercises. Since 1BCT is only a few months old, the Training and Doctrines Command (TRADOC) together with the US Army counterpart shall design, develop, implement and evaluate training programs needed by the said unit for its planning and maneuver capability enhancements.
Aside from the planning and maneuvers, one of the highlights of this year’s military exercises is the Humanitarian and Civic Action (HCA) activities of SABAK 2019.
There will be two events involved in the HCA activities such as the construction of elevated one-storey, three-room concrete masonry unit building with comfort room and septic tank in Brgy. San Pedro, Moncada, Tarlac and construction of two-classroom building in Pag-asa Elementary School, Brgy. Pag-asa, Orani, Bataan.
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BREAKING: Duterte officially orders termination of VFA
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to send the United States the official notice to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Malacañang said Friday.
“”I instruct the Executive Secretary to tell him [Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.] to send the notice of termination to the US government,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told the INQUIRER in a phone interview.
This was not the first time Duterte threatened to scrap the VFA. However, the firebrand leader has claimed that he is “not joking” with the termination fo the military pact this time.
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Duterte: Misuari to declare war if federalism is rejected
MORO National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari has threatened to declare war against the government if federalism is not passed, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday.
The President said Misuari made the threat during a meeting in Malacañang late Tuesday.
Misuari met with Duterte upon his return from his trip to the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
The MNLF leader told the President that his group wants a federal system because it was an undelivered promise of former President Cory Aquino.
“Misuari said last night that if you do not give it to me, let me be very honest, I will go to war,” Duterte said in a speech during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino- Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) campaign rally in Marikina City on Wednesday.
The President said he assured Misuari that he understands his stand and that the government would form a panel since the two sides cannot negotiate secretly.
“I told him, day-to-day they will be briefed, how will they want the federal system? Will it be like the Bangsamoro Organic Law or a different type?” he said.
The shift to federalism was one of the campaign promises of Duterte.
The House of Representatives had passed its version of charter change bill but senators had declared that federalism was “dead in the water.”
Duterte says China's Xi threatened war if Philippines drills for oil
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday Chinese counterpart China Xi Jinping had warned him there would be war if Manila tried to enforce an arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a disputed part of the South China Sea.
In remarks that could infuriate China, Duterte hit back at domestic critics who said he has gone soft on Beijing by refusing to push it to comply with an award last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which ruled largely in favor of the Philippines.
Duterte said he discussed it with Xi when the two met in Beijing on Monday, and got a firm, but friendly warning.
“We intend to drill oil there, if it’s yours, well, that’s your view, but my view is, I can drill the oil, if there is some inside the bowels of the earth because it is ours,” Duterte said in a speech, recalling his conversation with Xi.
“His response to me, ‘we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”
Duterte has long expressed his admiration for Xi and said he would raise the arbitration ruling with him eventually, but needed first to strengthen relations between the two countries, which the Philippines is hoping will yield billions of dollars in Chinese loans and infrastructure investments.
The Hague award clarifies Philippine sovereign rights in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone to access offshore oil and gas fields, including the Reed Bank, 85 nautical miles off its coast.
It also invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim on its maps denoting sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
Duterte has a reputation for his candid, at times incendiary, remarks and his office typically backpeddles on his behalf and blames the media for distorting his most controversial comments.
Duterte recalled the same story about his discussion with Xi on oil exploration in a recorded television show aired moments after the speech.
He said Xi told him “do not touch it”.
He said Xi had promised that the arbitration ruling would be discussed in future, but not now.
Duterte said China did not want to bring up the arbitral ruling at a time when other claimant countries, like Vietnam, might also decide to file cases against it at the arbitration tribunal.
It was not the first time the firebrand leader has publicly discussed the content of private meetings with other world leaders.
His remarks came the same day that China and the Philippines held their first session in a two-way consultation process on the South China Sea.
They exchanged views on “the importance of appropriately handling concerns, incidents and disputes involving the South China Sea”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that gave few details.
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