MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Philippine and US marines celebrated decades-long ties at the opening ceremony of their annual training exercises on Tuesday, October 4, highlighting the benefits of cooperation amid threats it could be the last of their war games.
President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to terminate war games with the US, presenting plans to instead strengthen ties with China and Russia. But his pronouncements have not been translated to a formal directive.
“For more than 3 decades, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Armed Forces – being strong allies in the Asia-Pacific region – build capabilities on a wide range of operations,” said Philippine Marine Corps commandant Major General Andre Costales Jr. at the opening ceremony of the 33rd iteration of the Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercies (Phiblex).
Costales said their relationship with the US Marines has “withstood the test of time” even as he stressed the importance to build the capability of the Philippine Marines “without external interventions.”
Brigadier General John Jansen, commander of the US Marine 3rd Mechanized Brigade, highlighted their decades-long bond.
“We share this bond with our Philippines Marine brothers and sisters for decades,” Jansen said.
“The training ahead is specificially designed to enhance the capabilities of our forces to strengthen our ability to cooperate for disaster relief and regional security,” he added.
The Filipinos marines have the task of protecting the country’s maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and have closely worked with their American counterparts in deterring China’s aggressiveness. (READ: Dutete pivot to China won’t be easy for Americanized AFP)
Phiblex is an annual training exercises exclusive to the marines and sailors. It includes amphibous landing exercises, where they simulate military operations to take back an island from imaginary invaders. They also conduct training exercises on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Along with the regular Balikatan war games, the two are the two regular training exercises between the two militaries.
Both camps evaded questions on the possiblity that this year’s war games would be the last. “It’s a policy decision,” said Captain Ryan Lacuesta, director of the Philippine Marine Corps Public Affairs Office.
US embassy deputy press attaché Emma Nagy said planned activities with between the two militaries will proceed in the absence of a formal directive from civilian officials.
“We continue to focus on the strength of our alliance, which covers a variety of areas including military exercises. We’re moving forward,” Nagy said.
“We are moving on with our bilateral relationship with the same priorities as we’ve always had. That is how we’re going to keep moving forward,” she added. – Rappler.com