US, Philippines begin annual military drills amid doubts over alliance

October 4, 2016 5:15 pm

This photo taken on October 9, 2015 shows Philippine marines (in green) and their counterparts (in light brown) simulating an assault during the annual Philippines- amphibious landing exercise (PHIBLEX) in San Antonio, Zambales province, north of Manila. (Photo by AFP)

The US and the Philippines have launched their annual drills, even as the Philippine president has called for an end to such maneuvers.
The annual amphibious landing exercises between US Marines and the Philippines military were to take place as planned in the northern island of Luzon on Tuesday.
Three US Navy warships and a landing craft from the Philippines will take part in the 33rd amphibious drills dubbed PHIBLEX 33.
This year’s war games come after Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to end the joint military exercises.
Angered by US criticism of his bloody war against drugs since coming to office in June, Duterte said last week that the maneuvers will be the last under his presidency.
He also said he would review a defense pact signed two years ago known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Last month, he called for the withdrawal of US Special Forces from southern Philippines.  
Duterte has engaged in several inflammatory outbursts against the US during the past month, even calling US President Barack Obama a “son of a b***” in September.
Washington has sent Manila hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military assistance in recent years, making it the third-largest recipient of US military aid in after Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As a counter to China in the disputed South China Sea, the US and Philippines enacted the EDCA in 2014, giving the US military rotational access to five bases in the Philippines.
China has repeatedly criticized US military presence in the region and suspects the military drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite partial counterclaims by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. China is also locked in disputes with Japan and South Korea over the East China Sea.
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