PH, US Marines begin annual joint exercises
SUBIC Bay Freeport—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) starts Monday joint exercises with soldiers of the United States (US) to strengthen their defense partnership amid continuing tensions between Manila and Beijing over the ownership of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and other disputed islands in the West Philippine (South China) Sea.
In a statement, First Lt. Cherry Tindog, director of the Philippine Marine Corps public affairs office, said the 10-day Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) 2013 would focus on humanitarian assistance, disaster response and relief preparedness, maritime security and community development.
Tindog said Phiblex was held yearly, providing joint training not only to Philippine Marines and US troops, but also the Philippine Army, Air Force and Navy.
The US helicopter carrier USS Bonhomme Richard, escorted by two frigates, arrived in this free port on Friday carrying 2,200 American troops. The ship carries amphibious assault vehicles, light armored vehicles, helicopters and Harrier fighter jets.
The USS Olympia, a submarine, docked here on Thursday, but it was not clear if it will join the exercises. The US Embassy, in a statement, said the Olympia’s visit “highlights the strong historic, community and military connections” between the US and the Philippines.
The training venues are the Subic Bay International Airport here; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite; Crow Valley in Tarlac; Naval Station
Apolinario Jalandoon in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and the Naval Education Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales.
“[The conduct of Phiblex 2013] perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on the common heritage between freedom-loving countries committed to true service and the preservation of liberty and democracy,” the Phiblex command said in a statement.
Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon
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