BECAUSE of the need to reposition troops in connection with the presidential elections, the annual military exercise between the Philippines and the United States will be held a month ahead of schedule, a military official announced on Wednesday.
Instead of late April, the month-long Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) would be held this March, according to Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman.
“We have agreed to hold the Balikatan 2016 in advance because of the need to reposition our troops for the elections. So it would be held this March until April and it would be concluded a month before the elections,” Padilla told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
He said there would be no significant changes in the number of soldiers participating in the exercise.
Padilla refused to give the exact number of troops joining the drill.
Last year, 5,000 US soldiers and 6,000 AFP personnel joined the Balikatan.
This year’s war games, Padilla said, would be held in traditional exercise areas among others in Clark Air Base in Angeles (Pampanga), Crow Valley in Tarlac, Camp Aguinaldo and the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales.
Padilla said Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, commander of the Western Command (Westcom), will be the exercise director.
Meanwhile, the AFP official disclosed that two Japanese ships are docked at South Harbor in Manila for “engagement” with the Philippine Navy.