US wants more countries to join war games with PH

MANILA, Philippines – New US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift welcomed the historic navy-to-navy exercises between the Philippines and Japan, expressing interest to include more countries in its regular war games with the Philippines.

"He commended Philippine efforts to hold military readiness exercises with U.S. allies like Japan, which held search and rescue drills for the first time with the Philippine Navy last month," the US Embassy said in a press release on Monday, July 27

"Admiral Swift disclosed that he was 'very interested' in expanding annual US Navy-[Armed Forces of the Philippines] combat exercises into multilateral engagements with other partner-nations," the press release added.

Swift visited the Philippines from July 16 to 19 to meet with new Armed Forces chief General Hernando Iriberri. He joined a surveillance flight of the US Navy P8 spy plane over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a move that was protested by China

“It is important that the approach be a multilateral approach, not a bilateral one.... These problems are common to many countries, not just one,” Swift was quoted by the US embassy. 

The US and the Philippines are treaty allies through the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, the latter allowing US troops to come to the Philippines for exercises. Aside from the annual Balikatan war games, the US and Philippine navies also conduct the regular CARAT war games.

Australia, also a treaty ally, has joined the annual Balikatan war games although its participation remains minimal.

The drills between the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force is being questioned however because it was conducted based on a Memorandum of Agreement and not a treaty. Groups have raised it before the Supreme Court after Rappler first raised the question in June.

Swift commands the US Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It is the world's largest naval headquarters with about 200 ships and submarines, over a thousand aircraft and 140,000 sailors and civilians. –