U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, enjoy a Boodle Fight prepared for them by members of the Philippine Marine Corps during Exercise Balikatan 2019 in Lubang, Philippines, Apr. 3, 2019. (File photo by U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has canceled the shoulder-to-shoulder exercise “Balikatan 2020” to ensure the safety of the health of participating forces and the locals in the communities near their planned training areas, a release from its embassy in the Philippines said.

Supposed to be iterated on May 4-15, the U.S. Embassy said Friday it was called off in accordance with the “international travel restrictions” implemented by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Philippine government due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, was quoted in saying.

“We remain deeply committed to our long-standing Alliance and friendship,” he added.

Balikatan is an annual exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States and involves participation from Australia.

The United States and the Philippines have shared values and enjoy a warm relationship, deeply rooted in history, and the U.S. remains committed to the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

The DoD’s priorities remain the protection of service members, their families, and the department’s civilian workforce; safeguarding and maintaining our ability to defend the nation and its interests; and supporting our allies and partners in this fight.


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