The Philippines will not stop its ongoing exercises with US troops despite a strongly worded commentary in a Chinese military newspaper that borders on “war mongering,” a Philippine military official said.
“[The commentary] will not affect [the military exercises] any, because it does not concern China anyway,” Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the Armed Forces’ Western Command, told reporters by phone.
A part of the “Balikatan” military exercises where Filipino and US troops practiced defending offshore oil and gas platforms just finished Saturday, he added.
Earlier, a commentary in the Chinese military’s official Liberation Army Daily said the exercises have raised risks of armed confrontation in the disputed South China Sea, which Manila calls West Philippine Sea.
Asked to react on the commentary, Sabban said, “Parang sila ang war mongering eh, wala naman ganung issue na may epekto ‘yung Balikatan sa West Philippine Sea. It’s purely field training exercise and civil-military operation na hindi naman related nor mentioned yung West Philippine Sea nor China.”
“It is very far from the truth so pabayaan mo na lang ‘yan (let it pass),” he added.
The exercises were planned long before the ongoing standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships at the Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) and are “not directed towards any nation,” Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ spokesman for Balikatan, said. (John Roson)
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