US cancels major Philippines war games due to virus

Manila (AFP) –


The US military has cancelled large-scale exercises involving thousands of troops in the Philippines in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"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," US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Phil Davidson said.

The war games, set to be held in the Philippines on May 4-15 according to the US military statement, usually involve several thousand troops from the two longstanding allies and a smaller contingent from Australia.

Philippine military spokesmen contacted by AFP in Manila on Friday declined immediate comment on the announcement made by the Hawaii-based Indo-Pacific Command.

The United States now has the largest number of confirmed infections in the world while the Philippines, with limited testing, has reported around 700 cases.

The US troops who take part in Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) usually come from its bases in Japan and South Korea, which have both been hit hard by the virus.