6 more nations to join PH-US joint exercises

Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will take part in this year’s Balikatan joint military exercise to be held in the Philippines next month, apart from the host and the United States, a Philippine military official said here Sunday.

They will participate in the Multinational Maritime Security Roundtable Discussion for the upcoming Balikatan Exercise 2013, which will run from April 5 to 17, said Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

However, the six countries will not be taking part in the actual field training exercises which will be limited to Filipino and US forces alone, Burgos added.

“The roundtable discussion seeks to determine specific humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters, and build response confidence among multi-national partners,” said Burgos.

“The event will be one of the highlights of this year’s military exercise wherein more than 8,000 soldiers from the AFP and US military are set to participate,” he said.

Burgos said the annual Balikatan exercise seeks to “further promote and foster the existing friendship” between the two countries and “advance the security and stability of the region in the near future.”

The President’s men

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pooh-poohs concerns over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s continuing appointment of retired military and police officials to significant positions, saying in effect that these people posed no danger to the supremacy of the civilian government. That’s par for the course coming from a man with an interesting past — a defense minister and martial law enforcer who is now a senator of the realm, who was a key figure of EDSA People Power I uprising but eventually became a considered thorn in the side of the Corazon Aquino administration, and who was and is looked up to by known coup plotters and others who at one time or another swore by the swift, sharp wonders of a putsch.
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Troops can’t back off: AFP

The military said Monday that it cannot unilaterally decide to stop its rescue operations to recover the three Red Cross workers abducted in the island province of Sulu last week.

The reaction came after Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), announced that the victims made a fourth call to their colleagues Monday, saying they were together and in good health but their abductors want the military to stop pursuing them.

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