US, Ph troops launch new counter-terror drills
US and Philippine troops launched new joint counter-terrorism exercises on Monday, days after President Rodrigo Duterte, a fierce critic of Washington, reversed course in favor of pursuing one of Asia’s oldest military alliances.
Duterte vowed last week to be “friendly” with the United States, in contrast to comments he made a year ago calling joint military exercises a “humiliation” and threatening to sever defense ties forged after World War II.
The week-long joint operation — another turnaround from Duterte’s initial stand — involves live-fire training, rescues in combat situations, and mass-casualty situations aboard ships, according to the American side.
The US embassy said the drills “will increase overall US and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance,” in a statement on Monday.
“(The operation) perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage between freedom-loving countries,” said Philippine Marines spokeswoman Captain Maria Rowena Dalmacio.
About 900 US troops are taking part in the training, to be held in various locations in the northern Philippine region of Luzon, including the former US military base of Clark. The Filipino side did not disclose its numbers.
Duterte, 72, had sought to loosen his nation’s alliance with the United States since assuming the presidency last year as he looked to forge stronger relations with China and Russia.
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