Philippines President Threatens to End Joint Exercises

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is ending joint exercises with the US military after next week. Duterte said he will maintain the long-standing military alliance with the United States, but would not continue the exercises because “China does not want” them, according to CBS News. However, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr. later said an already-planned exercise for 2017 will go on as scheduled, according to the report. Two USAF C-130s and airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota AB, Japan, deployed to the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in the Philippines earlier this week as part of the third rotational air contingent to the country. The deployment of C-130s is part of the normal rotation, a “part and parcel” type movement to the Philippines, a senior defense official said. There is no significance to the fact that it is just two cargo aircraft, compared to the previous larger deployments of combat aircraft. The C-130s will focus on training and “capacity building” with partner forces, and improving their ability for humanitarian response. Bilateral training missions and subject matter expert exchanges are planned. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the signing of an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines earlier this month, saying the new agreement to build up bases inside the country shows the Philippines “is an important ally and we are moving forward with them.” (See also: Mischief in the South China Sea from the October issue of Air Force Magazine.)