As we fought together to stay above the enemy, then so we should help each other to address the threats that confront our societies, our region and our world,” said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte referring to America in an early April “Day of Bravery” commemoration speech.
That speech, at the time out of step with the tough-talking leader’s frequent scathing criticism of the US’ military role in the region, now looks prescient as the Philippines looks towards its long-time treaty ally to combat Islamic State (IS) linked rebels entrenched on its southern island of Mindanao.
Months before the IS-led siege of Marawi City, Duterte had downgraded annual Balikatan US-Philippine joint military exercises, restricting the traditional war games to less provocative humanitarian and disaster-relief operations. He also nixed bilateral military exercises such as the PHIBLEX amphibious joint exercise and CARAT naval maneuvers, both of which carried veiled threats towards China.
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