Philippines opens what could be final war games with US

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States opened their joint military exercises on Tuesday despite a recent statement from President Rodrigo Duterte that he wants to end the war games during his term.

Last week, Duterte declared his intention to end the joint military exercise between the Philippines and the US, noting that China is not in favor of the war games.

The president said that he wants to establish new alliances with Beijing for trade and commerce.

READ: Duterte wants end to Philippines' war games with US

Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Andre Costales Jr. said the Philippine Marine and the US Marine have been strong allies in the Asia Pacific region for more than three decades.

"With commitment from our marine forces, we have continuously kept our goal to sustain good relationship and cooperation thereby upgrading each other's capabilities and competencies," Costales said in his keynote speech.

Costales added that this year's amphibious landing exercise will focus on integration and inter-operability.

"For 2016, our mission is to integrate the use of strategic sea vessels and other non-traditional platforms," the general said.

The recent acquisition of the Philippine Navy's new strategic sealift vessel, the BRP Tarlac, as well as the future acquisition of its sister ship, the BRP Davao Del Sur, will strengthen the capability of the government to respond to any incident from the sea.

The US Marine vowed to be partners with the Philippine Marine to "grow the most versatile capability possible."

"Beyond all these visions and aspirations, what must prevail is brotherhood of marines regardless of color of our uniform and our skin," Costales said.

RELATED: Philippines-US war games set in Luzon

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified that there is no official order yet to end the war games between the Philippines and the US.

"One of the course of action that we are going to do in the next couple of weeks is to sit down with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)... and to let them tell us what's happening in these exercises," Lorenzana said in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source.

Lorenzana said that he would discuss first with the AFP if there is a need to continue the exercises with the US.

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