US to investigate death of Pinoy soldier in Balikatan

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THE US Embassy on Friday expressed regret over the death of a Filipino soldier during the Philippine-US Balikatan joint military exercises.

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The victim died from a bad fall in the proficiency parachute jump exercise in Subic on Thursday which Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, public affairs officer of this year’s Balikatan exercises, attributed to “wind drag.”

The soldier was supposed to land in a zone at the Subic port, but he dropped to the nearby sea.

“I wanted to express our condolences on the loss of [the airman]. We have reached out to the family and to the public. This was a tragic accident,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said in an interview. “He will be remembered for his great courage and service to his country.”

The envoy said the US officials are now coordinating with their Filipino counterparts to investigate the matter.

The name of the soldier has yet to be disclosed, but it was reported that he had the rank of Airman 2nd Class and belongs to Philippine Air Force’s 710 Special Operations Wing.

On the arrival of US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in Manila next week, Goldberg said the official will meet several Filipino government officials apart from observing the war games.

“Secretary Carter is, of course, coming because the Philippines is an important ally of the United States and it comes with conjunction of the Balikatan exercises so he will be here during the exercises. Seeing the troops is important to him as a secretary of Defense. It’s part of our regular contact and something special within the alliance,” Goldberg said.

Carter is the first top US defense official to observe the joint military drills. His visit comes after the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that allows American military to build facilities and preposition defense assets inside Philippine military bases.

The Philippines is the largest recipient of US military aid in the region.

Washington has increased its military fund to the Philippines to $79 million this year. This is apart from the $50 million allocation for maritime security.

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