THE US commander o the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade based in Okinawa, Japan, said Thursday his troops were ready to deploy and help the Armed Forces of the Philippines defend the country against foreign aggression amid ongoing tensions caused by a territorial dispute between Beijing and Manila.
“We know that this is a contested area,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy. “This is a busy neighborhood that you live in. The people and your neighbors all have their own aspirations and designs.”
Kennedy, here for the 32nd Philippine Bilateral Exercises that will run until Oct. 10, said that in the worst case scenario, “should somebody overstep the line,” the Marine Corps could be called upon to help an ally under the Mutual Defense Treaty signed between the US and the Philippines in 1951.
“I would tell you that if anybody would challenge the sovereignty of this country, their best friends within this region would respond within a matter of hours and generally, I assure you that that is not a hollow promise,” Kennedy said.
He said the US Marines consider the Philippines as its “second home.”
Kennedy issued the statement following reports that the US had deployed at least 30,000 Marines in Hawaii as part of its pivotal security deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.
The statement comes also as China continues its reclamation and construction activities on the reefs of the disputed West Philippine Sea, despite earlier pronouncements that it had stopped.
Other claimants to the disputed areas are Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
Kennedy said the exercises, now on their 32nd year, offer new lessons every time they are staged.
“In this ever increasingly complex security environment, these lessons are becoming more and more acute and remind us of the seriousness of the business that we have at hand,” the general said.
On Wednesday, Philippine Marines spokesman Capt. Jerber Anthony Belonio said PHIBLEX is designed to maintain readiness, enhance interoperability and improve the ability of Marines from both countries.
This time, the joint exercises would be held in Cavite.
“Last year, we’ve been to Palawan. This time it will be in Ternate, which is the training ground of our Marines. But our command post exercises would be in Palawan,” he said.
Belonio said all the equipment for the amphibious exercise will be provided by the US Marines.
“Our troops will discover new tactics and maneuvers especially using amphibious assault vehicles,” he said.
A US Marine Corp statement said PHIBLEX will include a command-post exercise, field-training, live-fire practice and humanitarian and civic assistance projects.
Some 1,200 Filipino troops will be joined by 3,500 Marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force and the Navy’s Commander, Task Force 76. With PNA