Thousands of American and Filipino Marines begin on Wednesday annual exercises in various parts of the country, including areas near the disputed South China Sea to test the two allies’ readiness to respond to terrorism and maritime security threats, a Philippines Marines Corps spokesman said on Tuesday.
About 100 Japanese soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces will also take part in the humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) component of the 10-day “Kaagapay ng mga Mandirigma ng Dagat (Kamandag) exercises,” said Captain Felix Serapio.
Serapio said about 1,400 US servicemen from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 600 troops from the Philippine Marines will be involved in conventional and non-traditional exercises, including an amphibious landing exercises in a Marine base in Ternate, Cavite.
This is the third time both countries will hold Kamandag after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the scrapping of annual Phiblex in September 2016.
“These exercises will seek to develop the Philippines and United States’ military to improve the military inter-operability, amphibious operation competency and strengthen capacity for the conduct of counter-terrorism, humanitarian civic assistance and disasters relief operations,” said Serapio.
He said the participants will be working on some counter-terrorism and HADR scenarios during the exercise, which will involve the Philippine Marines’ newly-acquired amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) from South Korea and US marines.
Kamandag trainings will be held in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite; Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Capas, Tarlac; 3rd Marine Brigade base in Palawan, and in Manila Bay. The exercise will conclude at the Marine headquarters in Taguig City on Oct. 18, he added.
In a separate statement, the US embassy said the two sides will be conducting amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counter-terrorism response operations, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions under Kamandag 3.
“New for this year’s Kamandag, US and Philippine forces will conduct assault amphibious vehicle training together,” the embassy said.
“It will also be the first to include US and Philippine low-altitude air defense training and threat reaction training. Together, these activities represent an increase in military capability and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and demonstrate the ability to forward deploy forces in the event of a crisis or natural disaster,” the embassy added.
It said the third Kamandag exercise promotes “multinational military interoperability, readiness, and capabilities.”
Serapio said personnel from the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Coast Guard will likewise participate in the annual exercise but could not immediately give figures.