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US, Philippines begin annual military drills
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 5/8/2017 3:14:27 PM
US, Philippines begin annual military drills

Manila: The US and Philippines on Monday began their main annual military exercises with a smaller number of troops than previous years and also limited to anti-terrorist operations and disaster response. The 2017 edition of the Balikatan drills began with a ceremony at the headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo to the north of Manila, Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla told Efe news. Nearly 5,400 soldiers -- 2,800 Philippines and 2,600 US troops -- will participate in these 12-day exercises.

The current edition of Balikatan will be restricted to anti-terrorist and disaster response operations, the military spokesperson said. Manila has deployed its biggest warship in this maneuver which will focus on mass evacuation, urban search and rescue, underwater demolition and anti-terrorism operations in Samar, Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora and Nueva Ecija provinces. During previous years, both armies practiced war situations with response exercises in the face of an invasion.

This edition does not even include exercises near the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea where Manila and Beijing are embroiled in territorial disputes over the sovereignty issue. The scaled-back exercises come after President Rodrigo Duterte changed the Philippines' foreign policy, distancing the country from Washington and aligning itself more with China.

Last week, three Chinese warships visited the Philippines - for the first time since 2010 - to "bolster camaraderie and understanding between the two navies through naval diplomacy," according to the Armed Forces of the island country. Balikatan has taken place every year since the US and the Philippines signed a mutual defence agreement in 1951.

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US,Philippines,deployed,Balikatan,agreement

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