The Hawaii-based US Indo-Pacific Command on Friday cancelled Exercise Balikatan 2020 scheduled on May 4-15 in the Philippines, citing health and safety concerns amid a pandemic.

In a statement, the Indo-Pacific Command said the cancellation was in accordance with international travel restrictions implemented by the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Philippines due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“In the 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,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, US Indo-Pacific commander.

Balikatan is a yearly exercise between the Philippines and the United States, as well as Australia.

“The DoD’s priorities remain the protection of service members, their families, and the department’s civilian work force; safeguarding and maintaining our ability to defend the nation and its interests, and supporting our allies and partners in this fight,” the statement said. (Melo M. Acuña)