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Spratlys > News > Chinese News > Feb 2004

Category: @News  @China

War games near Spratlys, communist stronghold

February 11, 2004

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - The Philippine military announced Tuesday a new round of major war exercises with US troops that will bring American forces near the disputed Spratly Islands and areas where communist guerrillas operate.

About 2,500 American troops, mostly Marines backed up by 46 assault and transport aircraft, will take part in the annual combat and live-fire maneuvers called "Balikatan," or "shoulder-to-shoulder," from Feb. 23 to March 4, said deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia.

They will be joined by about 2,300 Filipino soldiers in northern Luzon and the western province of Palawan, Garcia said. Palawan is near the Spratlys, a cluster of islands and islets believed to be rich in oil and gas which are contested by six nations, including China and the Philippines.

Most of the activities will focus on computer-based exercises and civic projects like building schools, digging water wells and providing medical services in Palawan, about 580 kilometres (360 miles) southwest of Manila, officials said.

The Philippine exercise director, Brig. Gen. Rafael Romero, said there was also a plan for a beach landing exercise at Dingalan Bay, off Aurora province, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of Manila. Communist guerrillas are active in the mountainous region.

Adequate security has been prepared for all the venues, Romero said.

The annual exercises, launched under a 1951 defence treaty to prepare the longtime military allies for joint combat, are aimed at dealing with external threats but would also deal in part with anti-terrorism scenarios, Romero said.

"This is not aimed at any singular threat," he said. "We just want to be prepared ahead of any crisis." In recent years, US forces have also carried out anti-terrorist training in Mindanao, where the Philippine military has been fighting Muslim separatists and the extremist group Abu Sayyaf.

American military officials said last week that a new round of security training of light infantry battalions by less than 100 US military instructors will begin in July or August in southern Zamboanga city.

US training, weapons and civic projects have been credited with helping the Philippine military cripple and displace Abu Sayyaf guerrillas from their jungle strongholds on southern Basilan island, where hundreds of US Special Forces instructors were deployed in 2000.

The Philippine military says American troops need to continuously train Filipino soldiers and provide military assistance to help prevent remaining Abu Sayyaf guerrillas from recovering to launch new attacks.

source: http://www.brunei-online.com/bb/wed/feb11w7.htm (accessed on 15 Feb 2004)
* note: zt means (zhuan tie)