The United States Indo-Pacific Command canceled the Balikatan 2020 exercises between Philippine military troops the United States following due to the COVID-19 threat.
The cancellation of Exercise Balikatan 2020 scheduled for May 4-15 complied with “international travel restrictions implemented by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as well as the Republic of the Philippines in response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.”
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Balikatan is the annual military exercises between the Philippines and the United States. It is a Tagalog word meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder”.
The April 2016 10-day exercises are the 32nd iteration of the Balikatan exercises. The exercises have been the cornerstone of the Philippines–United States military relations since the U.S. bases in the Philippines closed.
Balikatan 2020 canceled-US Indo-Pacific Command
“We remain deeply committed to our long-standing alliance and friendship,” Davidson added.
The Balikatan military exercises contribute directly to the Philippine armed forces’ efforts to root out Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah and bring development to formerly insurgent-held areas, notably Basilan and Jolo.
Armed Forces of the Philippines said more than 10,000 contingents from the Philippines and other countries were supposed to join this year’s Balikatan.