Philippines eyes even larger military drills with US in April

Philippines eyes even larger military drills with US in April
The Philippines and the United States plan to hold what could be their largest military exercises in April, in a show of strength of their alliance amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

The annual exercises – called “Balikatan” – will feature “more complex drills”, including cyberspace and information warfare, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Colonel Francel Margareth Padilla said in a briefing on Jan 30, Bloomberg reports. “Balikatan” is a Filipino word that translates to shoulder-to-shoulder.

“We are going to have more exercises in key positions all over the country,” Col Padilla said. “Aside from quantity, we will heavily lean towards quality training.”The mutual defence allies held their largest war games in over three decades in 2023, when 17,600 military troops from both countries participated. The exercises included live-fire drills in waters near the South China Sea, where Beijing has asserted expansive claims.

The plan for expanded drills comes as the US and the Philippines are boosting their security ties in the face of lingering tensions in the contested waters.

The Philippine Navy has monitored about 200 vessels operated by Chinese maritime militia in the South China Sea, Navy spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said in the same briefing. “We have seen them being more aggressive, and that has carried on until now,” Commodore Trinidad said. 
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