US, PH to hold 280 joint military exercises in 2020

An anti-VFA rally in Zamboanga City on 20 April 2012. MindaNews file photo by ARIES SANDINO M. MORDENO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 June) – The US and Philippine militaries have lined up at least 280 joint military exercises for next year, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said on Tuesday.

In a press conference at the Seda Abreeza Hotel in Davao City, Kim assured US-Philippines relations remain strong and robust despite President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s tirades against the US government.

“He (Duterte) says a lot of controversial things publicly but I think many of us focus on what is happening in the relationship and spend less time worrying about public statements and speeches,” Kim said.

The US and Philippine militaries held over 250 activities in 2018, including minor exchanges and major activities like the Balikatan Exercise, an annual military exercise of the two countries under the Visiting Forces Agreement despite criticisms from some sectors against it, he said.

He added the US considered the partnership between the US and the Philippines very important.

Despite the President’s tirades against the US, the ambassador said Duterte, whom he described as a strong and popular leader, assured him the US would remain an ally of the Philippines.

“I actually enjoyed all of my meetings with President Duterte. He is very well informed. He has strong opinions. We may not agree on every single issue but he has, in numerous occasions, shared his perspective that the Philippines has only one alliance and that is with the United States. And that will not change,” he said.

“I have enjoyed my meetings with President Duterte.  He does have a wicked sense of humor, and sometimes, joke about various things. But most of my meetings with him are quite substantive and productive. And I enjoy my interaction with him,” he said.

The ambassador said Duterte had expressed appreciation for US support for Marawi City, which was destroyed during the five-month fighting between government forces and Islamic State-inspired militants in 2017. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)