Mock Combat, 'ironclad' commitment

CAVITE, Philippines – The annual Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and United States are underway.

Carmela Fonbuena reports.

War games between the Philippines and the US make international headlines after US President Barack Obama spoke in front of US and Filipino troops standing shoulder to shoulder.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Our commitment is ironclad... friends stand together.

Bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty the 2 militaries hold annual Balikatan exercises to make sure they'll know how to fight together.

It is no coincidence, games this year focus on maritime security exercises because the new threat is China.
Conducted on Philippine beaches facing the disputed waters, it aims to synchronize the Philippines and US navies.

COL. ALVIN PARRENO, SUPT OF THE MARINE CORPS TRAINING CENTER: The importance of this is the combined operation which might come later on during invasion war or rebellion at least we are ready that. The interoperability is helpful to the troops.

The Americans say training together is a learning experience between forces with similar training techniques.
It’s the weather they find to be a challenge.

MAJ. JOSEPH WEINBURGH, US ARMY: I’ll tell you what.. one of the things is not to take the Pacific weather for granted. We’re in Hawaii and we’re also a Pacific Island. Just the exposure to heat has been the number one training lesson.

Critics question the constitutionality and the sociological impact of the presence of US troops in the Philippines.

COL. ROBERT McDOWELL, CHIEF OF JSOTF-P: We are not creating new bases. We serve at the pleasure of the Philippine government. We work in numbers that are acceptable to the Filipino people as a whole and what the government allows.

With the Philippine military one of the weakest in Asia the Aquino government says the Philippines needs the US to face the new threat and when you're the little kid on the block, big brother watching your back may be the best way to stand-up to the bully.

Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Cavite.