Thousands of Philippine and American soldiers began annual war games on Monday near disputed waters in the South China Sea, testing the readiness of the two oldest security allies in the southeast Asian region to respond to any emergency.More here:
Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members gathered for the opening ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 Sept. 29 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Forces West Headquarters, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.
PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy forces alongside members of the AFP focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations, across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.
“This year marks the 31st iteration of this exercise,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “On the surface, it showcases our combined capabilities and complex maritime operations. But in reality, it highlights a much deeper union.”
The exercise and training events will strengthen the bond between the two nations, and ensure they are able to work together in an even more efficient and effective way during future real-world operations, according to Kennedy.
"We will hone our military skills together during multiple combined field training events,” said Kennedy. “Additionally, we will focus on improving the tactics, techniques, and procedures in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, crisis response, and preservation of peace.”
While the main focus of PHIBLEX is strengthening interoperability, and ensuring the exchange of best practices and tactics between the two forces, the secondary purpose is to ensure there is a bilateral force standing ready to respond to potential HADR efforts, according to AFP Rear Adm. Alexander S. Lopez, commander of Western Command, AFP.
“The Philippines is host to 20-22 typhoons a year…our country is well versed for varying degrees of natural disaster,” said Lopez. “PHIBLEX has been intentionally scheduled yearly in the Philippines during the region’s typhoon season. Together we form an organized bilateral force with the capacity and ability to conduct more rapidly and affect more humanitarian assistance and disaster response (missions).”
PHIBLEX 15 will take place in areas around the Philippines, including Palawan and Subic Bay, and reinforce the structure in those places to ensure a stronger Philippine nation overall.
“A significant amount of the exercise will take place here in the province of Palawan,” said AFP Brig. Gen. Armando V. Banez, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade, AFP. “We are sending out a strong message of commitment to the people in Palawan, and our country as a whole, as we support nation building and developmental efforts throughout our country.”
(\U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. William Holdaway
During his closing remarks, Lopez took time to emphasize the importance of PHIBLEX as not just another exercise and training opportunity, but as a chance to build upon already present friendships and strengthen bonds.
“To me, the most significant aspect of the exercise is its social relevance and sustainability,” said Lopez. “Let us not waste a great opportunity to meet new friends and develop a friendship between our ranks – military or civilian alike.”