Philippines, US begin joint military exercises

Manila : Troops from the Philippines and the US Monday formally began their annual joint military exercises dubbed as Balikatan.

The 30th annual joint military drill will involve 3,000 Filipino soldiers and 2,500 American soldiers, Xinhua reported.

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Filipino and US officials attended the opening ceremony of the Balikatan exercises which were held in Camp Aguinaldo, in the Philippines’ capital region of Metro Manila.

“This year’s Balikatan exercises will zero in towards enhancing our combined capacity to undertake humanitarian assistance and disaster response as well as to deal with maritime security,” said the Philippines’ Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in his speech during the opening ceremony.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said this year’s Balikatan was “significant”, particularly since it was being held after the Enhanced Cooperation Defence Agreement that was forged by Manila and Washington last month.

The annual joint military exercises will run until May 16.

The staff planning exercises are scheduled to be held in Camp Aguinaldo and in Western Command in the western Philippine city of Puerto Princesa.

Field training exercises will be conducted in military camps in northern Philippines.

US President Barack Obama last week visited the Philippines which was his last stop of his week-long Asian tour.

Prior to Obama’s visit, the Philippines and the US had signed a deal to allow a bigger US military presence on Filipino territory.