US troops in PH learn how to trap, eat snakes for survival

MANILA, Philippines – Should the need arise, 60 soldiers of the United States Army will be able to survive Philippine jungles. Philippine troops trained them how to forage, trap, nourish, and prepare for consumption plants and animals, including snakes and chicken.

"The cobra hissed and flailed violently as Technical Sergeant Riden Dumalig, an instructor with the Philippine Army Special Forces, demonstrated to American soldiers how to prepare it for nourishing themselves in a jungle environment," reads the account of Lance Corporal Shaltiel Dominguez on the experience.

About 60 soldiers of the US Army participated on May 4, Sunday, in the jungle survival training course given by the Philippine Army Special Forces in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. It is part of the preliminary exercises for the Balikatan 2014 war games, which is focused on maritime security exercises. (READ: PH, US troops begin war games near disputed waters)

It's good training to prepare US troops for conflicts in the Pacific, said 1st Lieutenant Nicholas Risher, officer in charge with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th ID.

“This is especially valuable at a time when we’re moving out of Iraq and Afghanistan into other environments, and it allows us to be more prepared for conflicts in the Pacific or anywhere there’s a jungle environment,” Risher said.

The Balikatan war games are a regular activity between Philippine and US troops. More activites are expected with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). (READ: 3 to 5 bases eyed for US use)

EDCA paves the way for the increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, enables them to preposition defense and disaster response equipment, and allows them to build and upgrade facilities inside military bases.

The Philippines sought US military assistance in the wake of escalating maritime disputes with China. The request coincides with the US strategy of rebalancing in the Pacific.

The new agreement was met with protests, however. Senators slammed the lack of transparency in the negotiation of the deal. Other critics say EDCA leads to de facto basing by the Americans.

The Philippines used to host large American air and naval bases. Tens of thousands of American troops were forced to leave after the Senate voted in 1991 to evict them.

They were able to return, albeit in smaller groups, through the Visiting Forces Agreement. –