Philippines, US in Military Drills Near Disputed Seas

Philippines, US in Military Drills Near Disputed SeasPhilippines, US in Military Drills Near Disputed Seas

Thousands of Philippine and American soldiers began annual war games on Monday near disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has territorial disputes with China over the South China Sea, which is said to be rich in energy deposits and carries about $5 billion in ship-borne trade every year. The Spratlys – a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea – are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Nearly 5,000 US and Filipino troops will participate in the 11-day annual exercise, to be held in the Philippines’ western island of Palawan, near the Spratlys, and in the northwest province of Zambales on the main island of Luzon, just 100 miles (160 km) off Scarborough Shoal, according to Reuters.

The joint air and marine exercises “Philippine Bilateral Exercises,” or Phiblex, come as China continues to step up its presence and activities in the region.

Two US amphibious ships, USS Peleliu and USS Germantown, are participating in the exercises. Besides simulating boat raids and beach assaults, they will feature aerial live fire, mechanized armor maneuvers and parachute drops.

The annual drills between Philippine and US forces are being held under a 1951 treaty, part of a web of security alliances the United States built in the Asia-Pacific region during the Cold War.