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Duterte 'bending backwards' to demands of pro-US Armed Forces of the Philippines, says Bayan.

A militant group on Monday criticized the government's move to proceed with this year's Philippines-United States Balikatan exercises, saying the military drills run counter to President Rodrigo Duterte's vow to maintain an 'independent' foreign policy.

In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Renato Reyes said President Duterte was 'bending backwards to the demands of the pro-US sections of the Philippine military.'

'The shift from maritime exercises to humanitarian assistance and disaster response does not make the current iteration of the Balikatan exercises any less violative of our sovereignty. Neither does it make the current Balikatan exercises any less in the service of US imperialist agenda in the region,' Reyes said.

'It falls right into the US agenda of projecting its military power in the region. The war games must be seen in the context of US regional dominance, which also run counter to Philippine interests. The US wants to drag us into regional conflicts not of our choosing. The US conflict with China and North Korea are expected to intensify. We worry that the situation will worsen after Trump's visit in November,' he added.

This year's Balikatan will center on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, unlike in previous years where drills near the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) highlighted live fire drills based on invasion scenarios. The refocus is in line with President Duterte's rebalance of the country's 'recalibrated' foreign policy, which veered away from the US in favor of China and Russia.

Eighty soldiers from Australia and 20 from Japan will join about 2,800 Philippine soldiers and 2,600 American troops in this year's exercises.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 8, 2017
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