Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

US, Philippines begin annual military drills

US, Philippines begin annual military drills

This edition does not even include exercises near the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea where Manila and Beijing are embroiled in territorial disputes over the sovereignty issue.

When asked on whether U.S. troops, of which 2,600 are participating, are feeling let down due to the focus on HADR and counter-terrorism, Nicholson said this is not the case.

The changes were as instructed by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte who has had an antagonistic stance toward the USA security policies while expanding security ties with China and Russian Federation.

2,600 USA troops and 2,800 Philippine troops will participate in this year's drills, adding that 80 soldiers from Australia and 20 from Japan will also participate in the exercises.

Philippine Air Force honor guards and their American Marine counterparts perform the parade of colors at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Balikatan military exercises at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

After months of uncertainty, the US-Philippines annual joint exercises began in Manila on Monday (8 May), but it is reported to be on a much smaller scale compared to past years.

Exercise spokesman Maj. Celeste Frank Sayson said there are around 6,000 participating troops, consisting of some 2,800 Philippine troops and 2,600 USA troops, in this year's "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) drills.

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In a press conference, Lactao admitted that "political authorities" decided on the humanitarian and disaster relief focus of this year's military exercise.

US Ambassador Sung Kim said the exercises address global challenges.

Exercise spokesman Maj. Celeste Frank Sayson said there are around 6,000 participating troops, consisting of some 2,800 Philippine troops and 2,600 U.S. troops, in this year's "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) drills.

The drills are being held despite Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's persistent claims that he wants to end the joint exercises for more independence from its decades-long ally.

Mr Lorenzana said what has changed in the exercises now is the focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response and counter-terrorism.

"Under the current situation in the world, when calamities are becoming more severe, we have to devote more resources and time to this kind of activity, and also to counterterrorism", Lorenzana said.

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