The US and Philippine annual military exercise formally opened amidst US Senate proposal seeking to limit arms sales to the Philippines due to reports of human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
Two US senators filed a bill seeking restrictions on the export of certain weapons and equipment from the United States to the Philippine National Police (PNP) last Thursday.
The proposed Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counter-narcotics Act of 2017 was filed by Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin and Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
“There are many possible sources of firearms for us, not just America. This is not alarming,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs was quoted as saying by PhilStar Monday in reference to the bill filed by US Senators.
He said the bills, while widely publicized, would still have to go through the legislative process in the US Senate that could take a long while. And the US Congress is not composed of “just two senators.”
This year’s Balikatan exercise emphases on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counterterrorism (HADR/CT) and subject matter expert exchanges, according to Philippine and American security and defense officials—a stark deviation from previous bilateral military engagements that involved live fire exercises and scenarios of invasion on the western seaboard of the archipelago.