Castro: Balikatan 2023 a security threat amid US-China tensions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) — A lawmaker said on Friday the Philippines should not proceed with the scheduled joint training exercises with US troops next month to avoid getting caught in the middle of tensions between the United States and China.

"Kailangan pagisipan ng ating gobyerno, ng ating security forces ano 'yung magiging effect n'yan sa ating bansa," ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro told CNN Philippines' The Source. "At this time na mayroon conflict ang US at China, talagang we will be at the middle."

[Translation: The government and our security forces should think about its effect on our country. At this time that there is conflict between the US and China, we will really be at the middle.]

On March 14, Balikatan 2023 spokesperson Col. Michael Logico announced that over 17,000 Filipino and US troops will be participating in the training exercises.

He told CNN Philippines that the drills, which will focus on naval exercises, intend to ensure combat readiness and upgrade the skills of both forces.

READ: AFP: Balikatan 2023 will ensure combat readiness, upgrade skills of troops 

This will also help Philippine troops in their shift from internal security to external defense, which requires them "to be proficient in our maritime security, coastal defense, and our joint capabilities," he said.

The US and China have been at odds over Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province but which the US supports.

WATCH: See why tensions are rising between US and China over Taiwan

Both sides have also traded barbs on maritime conflicts, especially on China's supposed intrusions into the West Philippine Sea, a boundary declared in the 2016 arbitral ruling which China does not honor. Manila and Washington have a mutual defense treaty that dates back to 1951.