The Philippines and the United States on Sunday began its 28th war game to build up the two nations’ military abilities through traditional training as well as non-traditional aspects such as community assistance.
The war game is a joint military exercise conducted under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries. Around 4,500 US troops and 2,300 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel are expected to participate in the exercises.
“The conduct of BK12 affirms a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on mutual assistance as freedom-loving countries committed to the preservation of liberty, democracy and human life,” the AFP said in a statement.
“The end goal of the exercise is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability in the region,” the statement further said.
The war game was formally opened in a ceremony held at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Harry K. Thomas, Jr. in attendance, together with several top security officials and advisers.
This year’s joint military exercises will focus on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Training and will be conducted simultaneously in different parts of the country, especially near the disputed West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines and China are currently in a stalemate over a separate issue at Scarborough Shoal, several miles north of Spratly group of islands, where the BRP Gregorio del Pilar warship was deployed.
The yearly event, however, has been met with several protests from different groups.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) opposes the combined exercises as well as the increased American military presence.
“The so-called joint military exercises to be carried out this year by the US and Philippine governments are clear acts of power projection and military muscle flexing by the imperialist US government,” the CPP said in a statement.