Sri Lankan medical group warns of catastrophic shortages amid economic crisis

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine and U.S. forces on Friday concluded their largest joint military exercise in the Philippines in years.

The two-week training exercise, involving nearly 9,000 troops from the northern coast of Luzon in the Palawan Islands, took place amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed almost entirely by China, while it is also contested by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The annual exercise, Balikatan – which means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog – covered maritime security, amphibious maneuvers, live-fire training, urban and aerial operations, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

“This exercise effectively strengthens our armed forces as we fulfill our respective responsibilities in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Andres Centino, during the meeting. the closing ceremony of the exercise.

He added that the drill was one of the Southeast Asian nation’s proactive measures to deal with unprecedented and real challenges.

US and Philippine forces deployed more than 50 aircraft, four ships, 10 amphibious vehicles, four HIMARS rocket launchers and four Patriot missile systems during this year’s Balikatan. Patriot missile systems were first used in amphibious operations in the Philippines.

“After two years of a global pandemic, U.S. and Philippine forces have come together to complete one of the largest Balikatan exercises ever,” said Heather Variava, acting charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy. United in the Philippines, who attended the ceremony as guest of honour.

“This speaks to the strength of the U.S.-Philippine alliance and our countries’ shared priorities.”

The Balikatan drills were launched in 1991, anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits Washington and Manila to help each other in the event of an attack.

“The completion of another successful Balikatan is a clear example of our shared commitment to advancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” the deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces said in a statement. The pacific. said General Joseph Clearfield.

“We are better prepared to respond as a cohesive team to any crisis or challenge.”

While the US-Philippine war games were likely noticed by Beijing because they were taking place relatively close to Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, Centino and Clearfield said they were only aimed at improving interoperability.

“We’ve done it in the past, already 36 times,” Centino told reporters.

“It’s just to improve our abilities to use our unit-purchased gear.”

While China has appeared to side with Russia since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which was seen as stoking already existing Washington-Beijing tensions, Clearfield said the exercise ” had nothing to do with current events.”

Clearfield added: “We were working on doctrines, capabilities and capabilities that are currently needed by joint forces, and moving forward in a way that will deter aggression, but that was long overdue a year ago. that any kind of conflagration does not occur in Ukraine with Russia.”

Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines, told Arab News that the tensions likely to arise were not due to the exercise itself.

“As a sovereign nation with the right to self-defense, we have full rights to carry out all necessary military exercises to ensure that we have the capability to defend ourselves,” he said.

“The types of exercises we saw in this Balikatan exercise were long overdue, as these are the types of exercises that are really needed to improve our self-defense abilities.”

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

Trial for belonging to a neo-Nazi group: the judge will accept the verdict of the majority

J he jury in the trial of the founder of the neo-Nazi group National Action …