Updated: Fri, 05 Apr 2013 07:10:20 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

US, Philippine troops start war games amid China tensions

Thousands of US and Filipino troops began annual military exercises on Friday that the Philippines said were vital to building its defence capabilities to face the rising threat of China.


Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario used the launch of the 12-day Balikatan manoeuvres to accuse China of destabilising Asia with aggressive and illegal actions in the South China Sea.

"For our region excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims have not only created uncertainty but have undermined the rule of law," del Rosario said in a speech at the nation's military headquarters in Manila.

"Regional peace and stability have been placed at serious risk."

Del Rosario later said he was referring specifically to China.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and tiny rock outcrops near the coasts of smaller neighbours such as the Philippines.

Tensions have escalated in recent years as China has sought to stamp its authority over the region.

The Philippines has accused China of occupying a shoal close to its main island, and appealed to the United Nations to rule on the validity of Chinese claims to the resource-rich sea.

And last month China's navy began patrolling disputed waters, sending vessels to within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of the Malaysian coast and at one point firing "warning signal shells" at a Vietnamese boat.

Amid the rising tensions, the Philippines has sought closer diplomatic and military ties with the United States, its former colonial ruler.

The two countries share a 61-year-old mutual defence pact, which requires the United States to come to the aid of the Philippines if it is attacked.

Del Rosario said the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises were a very important part of the Philippines' efforts to secure US support.

"For my country we need to secure our borders and protect our territorial integrity more vigorously than we have before," he said.

"Balikatan... is an important contribution in not only preparing both our armed forces to work together but also in building my country's own capacity to defend itself."

The manoeuvres involve more than 8,000 US and Filipino troops, 30 military aircraft including a dozen US F/A-18 Hornets and three naval vessels, the two countries said.

Friday's launch only involved speeches from military and political leaders from the two sides.

The media will be allowed access to exercises next week, some of which will involve combat drills and simulated rescue work for natural disasters.

Del Rosario also said it was vital for the Philippines to have more US forces rotate throughout the year, and not just for scheduled exercises such as Balikatan.

"This will be crucial in our efforts in the short term to establish our minimum credible defence posture, and in the long term to build a more robust national defence structure," he said, without giving details.

The Philippines said last year it would allow more US troops to visit for short durations, such as for naval port calls, although it ruled out a return of permanent bases.

14Comments
Apr 5, 2013 1:30AM
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I'm just curious, do we have muslim filipinos who joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines? From what i observed, most of our armies are christians. How ****ut police officers? I guess it is better if we encourage our muslim brothers to participate and join in this kind of activities, probably this can be the solution to our problem especially in mindanao. Let us unite one another and help our country for the common good of Filipino people.
Apr 5, 2013 2:57AM
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To Richfield:

 

The "Abusayap", as you were saying, were brainwashed since they were young. Most of them lived in remote areas of mindanao so little or no information were given to them ****ut the goodness of our government so they rebel. Now, if a muslim or a member of a terrorist group will decide to join the army of the Philippines, part of his training is education. The Armed forces of the Philippines will teach them patriotism, they will soon realize that our country needs them to defend or protect and fight for our nation. Love for our country will soon be implanted into their hearts. So the botton line here is that, our government must encourage our muslim brothers to join our soldiers and defend our nation against terrorists. Muslims and Christians, let us stand as one!

Apr 5, 2013 4:11AM
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As early as 1980's we already have a family friend who's father is a Muslim Army Colonel.  What Mindanao needs right now is education and and opportunity to earn a living.

Love to our country will follow.  It is not the wealth that will make as stronger it is how we care our family and our citizens, give equal opportunity to the needy.  Then we depreciate politics here in our country, they are the less priority to be given to much attention at a very high cost.

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How can the Philippine Army tell whether a Muslim who enlists in the army is not a jihadist or an Abusayap who will turn against his fellow soldiers?
Apr 6, 2013 3:15AM
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One of the requirements in enlisting to AFP and PNP is obtaining bachelor's degree. I don't think Abu Sayyaf can finish colle****hile concentrating on doing terror activities. Also, the background investigation takes months on EVERY applicant with Muslim surnames, Muslim origin, to include the birthplace. The same is true to non-Muslim applicants. There are too many Muslim brothers and sisters in the police and military service and they are doing great. Military and police training are so rigid and tough that would bring out your real motive in entering the service before you can do harm to your classmates and brothers in profession of arms.

 

Neuro-Psych test will surely be a BIG hindrance for any Abu Sayyaf who will attempt to infiltrate the service. Also, most of the trainors are Mindanao-war veterans who saw real actions, they have onducted recons on these guys that they could possible recognize their faces while they are lining for submission of their personal folders.

Apr 6, 2013 10:43PM
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it'd be comforting to still have that U.S. navy base in Subic.....just sayin'
Apr 7, 2013 4:13AM
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The President should prepare contingency as the North Korean crisis eases.  The balikatan may encounter North Korea, REd Chinese and their allies maneuvering in the South China Sea.
Apr 5, 2013 5:51AM
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Good ideas! Suggest your idea(s) directly to your leaders by writing them. Rather than just giving your comments here for what.... so that your voice will be heard and practice your grammar. Your ideas are useless if you don't convey it to the proper person or authority. Compose a letter with your ideas, pu**** in envelope, mail it to your leaders and there go, you're done. You can also make pe****ion if you want something to be changed in the current government policies. Be a use****l citizen!
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