Apr 22, 2024, 11:13 AM

Philippines, US kick off largest-ever joint military drills

Philippines, US kick off largest-ever joint military drills

TEHRAN, Apr. 22 (MNA) – More than 16,700 Philippine and US troops started their largest-ever annual joint military drills on Monday amid criticisms that the drills threaten regional peace and stability.

According to the Philippine military, the 19-day exercises, dubbed "Balikatan 2024," will involve around 5,000 Philippine and 11,000 U.S. troops, making it the largest iteration of the Philippines-US joint drills conducted in decades.

Contingents from the Australian Defense Force and, for the first time in Balikatan's history, the French Navy will also join the exercise as participants. A total of 14 nations, including Japan and India, will take part in the annual military drills as observers.

Balikatan 2024 will be held from April 22 to May 10.

Participants will execute a range of complex missions across domains, including maritime security, air and missile defense, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defense, and information operations.

This year's maritime drill will for the first time go beyond the Philippines' 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.

Also on Monday, protesters gathered to Camp Aguinaldo, the site of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, where the opening ceremony of the Balikatan 2024 is held, to voice their opposition.

They carried placards and banners decrying the military exercises, urging the Philippine government to trash the military agreements with the United States.

Many Philippine experts and scholars also expressed their concerns that the joint drills might threaten regional security.

Anna Malindog-Uy, vice president of the Manila-based think tank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute, told Xinhua that the involvement of more countries in such military drills "may lead to new or strengthened political and military alliances in the region, which could increase our competition and create division and more tension among regional countries."

"Our people do not want war with any country for any reason whatsoever, least of all one with our biggest neighbor and trading partner with whom we do not have any serious problems we cannot solve," wrote Former Senator Francisco Tatad in a recent opinion piece, who is also a columnist for the Manila Times.

Balikatan, a Tagalog phrase for "shoulder-to-shoulder," is the most comprehensive among several regular Philippines-U.S. joint military exercises.

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) gives U.S. troops a legal basis to be in the Southeast Asian country for bilateral exercises, and governs the conduct of U.S. armed force personnel. 


News ID 214205


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