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Defense chief: Duterte didn’t consult Cabinet on stand to cut military exercises with US

President Rodrigo Duterte did not consult officials of his Cabinet before he made statements in scrapping the Philippines’ joint military exercises with the United States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday. 

At the Commission on Appointments (CA) panel hearing on Lorenzana’s ad interim appointment, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon asked: “You cannot deny that we are also benefiting from this (PH-US joint exercises), so why should we terminate this?” 

Lorenzana then replied: “Mr. Chair, I really don’t know because the President has been issuing statements without consulting the Cabinet.” 

Lorenzana said there is no final decision yet to suspend the military exercises next year. “It is still on,” he said. 

He said Duterte has asked him to make a presentation to the Cabinet soon with regards to the status of military exercises, and other agreements and treaties. 

In an interview with reporters, Drilon said the President should consult his Cabinet members, who were appointed precisely to give him expert advice.

“I would maybe suggest that more consultation be done ... precisely, you appointed your Cabinet as your advisory group because no one can know everything that is why you have experts in the various fields,” he said.

The Defense secretary earlier said the US “is still hoping” to conduct military exercise with the Philippines. 

Duterte had said that the recently concluded exercises with the US military will be the last under his term.

The President had also expressed openness to war games with China and Russia.

Drilon also said that while he fully supports Duterte’s stand for the Philippines to pursue an independent foreign policy, there is no need to cut ties with the US.

“It is to our national interest that we maintain our relationship with a longtime ally…We can pursue relationships with China and Russia without sacrificing our relationship with a longterm ally,” he added. —RSJ/ALG, GMA News