The Philippines and United States will sustain on a regular basis the joint patrols in the West Philippines as well as the rotational military exercises, according to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Carter said in a press conference on Thursday (April 14) that sustaining the naval patrols would improve the Philippine Navy’s capability and “contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.”
He said a contingent of US aircraft and their crews and pilots that took part in the recently concluded Balikatan exercises will stay at Clark Air Base, and that a command control unit will remain behind to continue the joint exercises.
A Philippine Star report said the contingent that will remain behind consists of five A-10C Thunderbold II ground attack aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and an MC-130 special operations aircraft.
The two-week Balikatan exercises, dubbed as the biggest so far in terms of scope, scenario and the types of equipment deployed, ended on Friday (April 15). Around 8,000 Filipino and US troops participated in the military drills.
“With these steps, we’re making our strong alliance even stronger. Our efforts to do more together demonstrate America’s unbreakable commitment to the defense of this nation,” Carter said,
“The stability and security of the Asia Pacific and the principles have helped so many in the region to rise and prosper. And that’s not a new commitment. That’s not something new this year. But it’s one we have met decade after decade,” Carter said.
He said China’s actions in the South China Sea “are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”
During the Balikatan, US troops conducted live fire exercises of the anti-aircraft High-Mobility Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in Crow Valley in Tarlac.
A report said a HIMAR is similar to the P5.6 Shore-based Missile System that is included in the shopping list of the armed forces as part of the modernization program.
Philippines’ top military officials have expressed interest in acquiring the HIMAR following its live demonstration during the war exercises.
Meanwhile the Communist Party of the Philippines has announced that its armed wing will conduct tactical offensives on the US military bases to be constructed in at least five locations in the country.
“The New People’s Army must contribute to the struggle against US military intervention and US military bases by, among others, directing tactical offensives against the host camps and the treacherous armed forces that provide perimeter security to the interventionist troops,” the CPP said in a statement.
The group also denounced the recently Balikatan exercises, saying it was meant to speed up the construction of the US military bases in the country.
The Philippines and the US have agreed to construct military facilities on five locations in the country: Antonio Bautista air base in the western island of Palawan near the South China Sea, Basa air base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia airport in Cagayan de Oro and the Mactan-Benito Ebuen air base in Mactan.