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AFP chief Año: Filipino, US troops to engage in more activities next year

Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said Thursday Filipino and US troops will be engaging in more joint military exercises next year.

“For next year, there will be a total of 261 activities composed of exchanges and exercises so from 258 to 261, meaning to say ni-level up natin ‘yung mga activities, maganda ‘yung result,” Año told reporters in an ambush interview.

In September, the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board led by Año and Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris met in Hawaii to discuss the slate of joint activities to be undertaken by the two militaries.

The AFP chief said there will be exercises on territorial defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster reduction, and counter terrorism.

He said the activities next year will “return to normal” with President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that he wants to be friendlier with the US.

“There will be table top exercises, command post exercises, conferences, consultations, humanitarian assistance, building schools and roads. Actually ‘yung normal na ginagawa natin, last year kasi nagkaroon tayo ng  mga limitations, ngayon okay na tayo,” he said.

“Sabi nga ni Presidente ‘I want to be friendlier to US,’  after all hindi naman natin kalaban ‘yung US, hindi naman natin kalaban ‘yung China, our utmost priority is the interest of the country, that’s all,” he added.

Last year, President Duterte expressed opposition to the conduct of annual war games between the Philippines and America.

But Año said Duterte did not give any instruction as to what exercises should be included.

“Sabi lang niya is to continue engagement with the United States, they are still our number one ally and kung ano ‘yung provision ng treaty carry out,” he said.

However, there will be no exercises in connection with the West Philippine Sea, said Año.

“Walang ganun, dito lang tayo sa atin,” he said. — RSJ, GMA News