MANILA, Philippines – U.S. and Philippine special forces are set to start annual military exercises in a sign that such joint drills will continue despite vocal opposition by the Philippine president.
Philippine army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao says the Balance Piston exercises will start Wednesday in the western province of Palawan. He says both sides have agreed to forego live-fire drills during the monthlong exercises.
Hao didn't give a reason Tuesday for dropping the live-fire maneuvers, but the Philippine defense department has said President Rodrigo Duterte wants such assault drills to be discontinued.
Duterte, who has been antagonistic toward the U.S. for criticizing his deadly anti-drug crackdown, wants all joint combat exercises with the Americans stopped, but Philippine defense officials have explained to him the benefits the country gains from the drills.