US and Philippine Marine forces will be conducting joint naval war exercises starting Monday off the coast of Palawan near the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
At least 650 US Marines and sailors of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3d MEB), the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) based in Okinawa, Japan, and 740 officers and enlisted personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be participating in the 31st iteration of the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) 2016 from September 21 to October 9.
Officials said the exercises seek to continue to enhance the inter-operability between the US Marine air-ground task force and the AFP with the goal of improving bilateral response to regional issues and maritime security crises within Asia-Pacific.
The combined US and Filipino troops will be working side-by-side to conduct a command post exercise, field training exercises, amphibious operations, combined arms training, civil-military operations and humanitarian and civic assistance projects.
The command post exercise in Palawan aims to increase the AFP’s capability to conduct planning for and execution of bilateral maritime operations.
The field training exercises in the vicinity of Angeles-Clark in Pampanga, include small arms and artillery live-fire training.
They will provide the two forces multiple opportunities to maintain and improve their unit skill sets while sharing best practices and enhancing an already high level of inter-operability.
Phiblex will also involve humanitarian and civic assistance projects in Palawan, such as engineering civic action projects to improve local infrastructure and cooperative health engagements.
It will be a way of sharing medical best practices to meet the medical needs of the people.
All portions of Phiblex will also play a major role in preparation for the large-scale war exercises Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder), which will take place next year.
“Bilateral Philippine-US military training opportunities such as Phiblex 16 sustain our strong foundation of inter-operability and strengthen our working relationships across the range of military operations–from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.