The Philippine armed forces will carry out joint exercises with hundreds of US soldiers in the next two weeks, the military authorities announced this Sunday (04/11/2021) amid growing tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
The 2020 maneuvers were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and those in 2021 will be smaller also due the health crisis, explained Philippine military chief Cirilito Sobejana.
The military exercises, known as Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder), will involve about 700 US soldiers and 1,000 members of the Philippine military, about a quarter of the usual attendance, Sobejana said.
The announcement came hours after a phone call between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Filipino counterpart Delfín Lorenzana.
Chinese ships in Philippine waters
The Philippines has protested the presence of Chinese ships within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone on the Whitsun reef and has repeatedly called on Beijing to withdraw the vessels.
Chinese diplomats, however, maintain that the fishing boats were sheltering from bad sea conditions and that there were no militias on board.
This year’s maneuvers will also put into practice the two countries’ response to threats such as natural disasters and militant extremist attacks.