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PHL, US to increase number of joint military exercises in 2019 —AFP

The Philippines and the United States have agreed to increase the number of joint military exercises in 2019, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced Saturday.

"The Philippines and US agreed on 281 security cooperation activities for 2019, an increase over 2018," AFP public affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato said.

AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez and US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip Davidson approved the military-to-military activities during an annual meeting of the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB) in Camp Aguinaldo last Thursday.

There are 261 approved activities by the Philippines and the US this 2018.

"There is an increase... 20 additional activities from last year's planning. Its leveling up the amount of activities," Detoyato said.

"Both the Philippines and the US look forward to ongoing, close cooperation in areas central to our national and security interests, including counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and many others." 

Prior to the MDB-SEB meeting, Davidson first paid a courtesy call on Galvez.

Moreover, Detoyato said, "During the visit, matters of mutual interest were discussed including the strength of the US-Philippine partnership and the importance of the US-Philippine alliance to the Indo-Pacific region."

AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla announced that joint military activities will include the huge-scale Balikatan exercises.

"The activities includes Balikatan, the usual, exchanges, sharing of information, visit of senior officials."

"If there [is] increase in activities, it doesn't necessarily mean they involve ranking officials. They may be lower-ranking under exchange of people," Padilla said. —Jamil Santos/LBG, GMA News