3,000 United States and Philippine Soldiers Deployed In Annual Joint Exercise

3,000 United States and Philippine Soldiers Deployed In Annual Joint Exercise
3,000 United States and Philippine Soldiers Deployed In Annual Joint Exercise

Manila - The United States (US) and the Philippines launched joint exercises on Monday (13/3/2023). The focus of the joint military exercise is to increase the Southeast Asian country's ability to protect and defend its territory from external threats.

The drills follow President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s decision last month to expand US access to his country's military bases. This move angered China as the Philippines is seen as a fulcrum of geopolitical rivalries between the two great powers.

More than 3,000 Philippine and US troops are participating in the annual three-week exercise called Salaknib, which involves several small arms drills, live artillery and mortar fire, and construction projects.

"The scenario will involve defending the Philippine archipelago from potential foreign aggressors," Philippine Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner told reporters after the opening ceremony, as quoted by Reuters. "As this is a ground force exercise, we will focus on defensive operations such as air defense and also our defense of the coastline," he added.

Most of the activities will take place at Fort Magsaysay, the Philippines' largest military camp, and one of five locations the United States has access to under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Manila.

Under the agreement, the United States may use the base for joint training, equipment pre-deployment and construction of facilities such as runways, fuel storage, and military housing, but not for maintaining a permanent presence.

China denounced the agreement's expansion, calling it "part of the US attempt to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country". "By doing this, the US has not only increased tensions, driving divisions between China and the Philippines, but has also disrupted and disappointed the joint efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," said the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy. in Manila.

The Philippines has not disclosed the additional bases the United States plans to access, but a former military chief said they include bases on the island of Luzon, facing north toward Taiwan, and on Palawan to the southwest, near the disputed Spratlys.

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