US, Philippine marines launch what could be their last joint drills

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Manila, Oct 4 (IANS) US and Philippine marines on Tuesday kicked off what could be their last joint military exercises in the Philippines’ main Luzon island and Palawan.

The US embassy in Manila said in September that at least 1,400 US marines based in Okinawa, Japan, and 500 Philippine troops will participate in this year’s Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise codenamed PHIBLEX 33, Xinhua news agency reported.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said this year’s PHIBLEX, which wraps up on October 12, will be the last joint war games that will take place during his term which ends in June 2022.

PHIBLEX is the first and perhaps the last joint military exercises between the two treaty allies during Duterte’s six-year term.

Duterte lamented the US does not share military technology with the Philippines. “They asked for a joint maneuvers, operations, and yet there is no capability between the weapons and the armaments they use, and even the communications,” he told a news conference on September 30 in Davao City.

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The president also said over the weekend that he would review the existing security arrangements with the US, including the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed in 2014.

The 10-year EDCA allows an increased presence of US forces, ships, aircraft and equipment in the Philippines and greater access to its military bases.

Under the new defence accord, US military personnel in the Philippines are to be deployed on a rotational basis.

Earlier, Duterte also called for the expulsion of about 100 US Special Forces posted in Zamboanga city on Mindanao, who were tasked to help the country’s military fight against terrorism.

He also said he was not going to allow the Philippine military to participate in joint patrols with the US.

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However, Duterte has repeatedly said the Philippines is not cutting its ties with the US, saying he is merely pursuing an independent policy.



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