US, Philippine troops hold joint drills

Posted at 10/16/12 7:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Around 600 Philippine and US troops held mock firing attacks on Tuesday (October 16) in the final exercise of their two-week joint drills.

The bilateral training between the US and Philippine marines takes place annually under a mutual defence agreement.

The troops fired mortars and practiced flying Sea Knight helicopters, which are normally deployed for combat support, transport of troops, and search-and-rescue operations.

"What you saw was basically three combined arms live fire attacks. So you saw three different objectives being taken. And you saw a combined effort between the Philippine Marines, United States Marines, our air power, their air power in demonstration here today," said US Marine Corps Brigadier General Craig Timberlake.

The 29th Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise is aimed at strengthening regional security and improving the two countries' humanitarian assistance and disaster response and relief operations.

The Philippines is pounded by at least 20 typhoons each year, and receives substantial disaster aid from the US.

Although the exercises come amid the Philippines ongoing tensions with China Sea, both camps say the war games are not directed towards defence strategy.

"We are here to exercise, and I think it is not in any way connected with the current situation in the West Philippine Sea," Philippine Marine Exercise Director Brigadier General Remigio Valdes said.

China and the Philippines have faced off on a number of occasions in the disputed waters, and earlier in the year they were involved in a month-long stand-off at Scarborough Shoal that prompted Manila to file diplomatic protests against Beijing.

Beijing has accused Washington of sending the wrong signals on the South China Sea, part of its push back against the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia that many Chinese analysts see as a campaign to contain rising Chinese power and influence in the region.

China and four Southeast Asian states, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have conflicting claims over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, an area believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.