US tightens hold on the Philippines
THE PHILIPPINES further tightened its hold on the Philippines after the 8th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) between both countries was concluded last June 15-16. The annual BSD is conducted under US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and is participated in by ranking officials of the US government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The US delegation was headed by Ambassador Sung Kim, along with representatives of the State Department for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Department of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs. Not only military, but also political and economic matters were discussed during the dialogue.
The US used the dialogue to further assert its power over Asia, especially amid its tension with China. It urged the Philippines to uphold the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) code of conduct to counter the claim of China over the disputed territory in the South China Sea. It was also agreed upon that the Philippines will participate in US freedom of navigation operations, through to project the latter’s strength through sailing warships and flying jetfighters within the territory of the country.
Bigger exercises will be conducted by the Philippine Army and US in the coming years. In the Salaknib 2020, the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), founded by the US military in 2018 will be retrained. About 1,500 BCT soldiers and 1,700 US Army Pacific Command troopers will participate in the activity. Salaknib purportedly aims to enhance interoperability of US military commanders and AFP soldiers in conventional warfare and counterterrorism operations. “This is a preparation for large-scale conflicts,” said Philippine Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.
Prior to the BSD, the US already allocated a $145.6 million aid for the AFP this 2019. This still excludes the share of the Philippine government from $1.5 billion military aid, recently approved by US President Donald Trump for countries in the Asia-Pacific, for 2019-2023.
In conjuction with the BSD, the Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA) was also held at the Marine Base Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite. MASA is conducted twice a year and is participated in by the Marines and Air Force of the US and Philippines. MASA is one of the 280 military exercises which are scheduled to be conducted in the country this 2019.