Manila [Philippines], March 15: The Philippines and the United States will hold their biggest ever military training exercises in April, with the first live-fire drills at sea, amid mounting tensions with CHINA over the disputed South CHINA Sea, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
A total of 17,600 troops, including around 12,000 from the US, will be participating in the exercise dubbed Balikatan, which translates to "shoulder to shoulder," making this year's exercises "officially the largest," said Colonel Michael Logico, Balikatan spokesman. The war games will focus on maritime and coastal defence, as well as maritime domain awareness, Logicosaid."We're going to [be] doing live fire exercises into the water," he said. "With the Americans, this is going to be a first time." The war games will be held in at least five provinces, including Zambales and Palawan, which both face the South China Sea. One site of the exercises is close to Taiwan, where tensions with China have also been simmering. Logico said the Balikatan was not directed against China, but added, "We are here to practice. We are here to show that we are combat ready." "Every country has the absolute and inalienable right to exercise within our territory," he added. "We have the absolute, inalienable right to defend our territory." The Philippines and China are embroiled in a territorial dispute due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing has taken over areas and built artificial islands with military-capable facilities. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the arearich in natural resources.
Source: Qatar Tribune