US cancels annual large-scale drill with Philippines hinh anh 1Illustrative image (Source: Navy Recognition)

Hanoi (VNA) –
The Philippines on March 27 announced the US military has cancelled the large-scale joint exercise dubbed as "Balikatan" between the two countries this year due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest joint drill between the Philippines and US, Balikatan was previously rescheduled for May 4 – 15 with up to thousands of troops expected to participate in.

In light of the extraordinary circumstances related to the 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.

Echoing Davidson’s view, Rear Admiral Adelius Bordado, the Philippines’ exercise director said: “We are in an extraordinary time and it’s clear we would have put many people at risk had we pursued Balikatan.”

Balikatan, meaning Shoulder-to-Shoulder, is the most comprehensive among the annual regular joint military exercises conducted by the two allies as it is designed to develop the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s combat readiness in territorial defence, and to enhance the two armed forces’ interoperability.

It has been conducted in the Philippines for more than three decades and been participated by Australia since 2014./.