Philippines, US cut short joint military exercises

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - October 12, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine and US marines decided to cut short their joint military exercises yesterday, ending the war games one day ahead of schedule.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was the keynote speaker at the closing rites of the joint military drill dubbed Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX) at the Philippine Marine headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

Carpio asserted the country’s maritime sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

He told the PHIBLEX participants that the West Philippine Sea covers the country’s territorial sea and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

While President Duterte has declared that PHIBLEX would be the last Philippine military engagement with the US under his term as he intends to open relations with Beijing and Russia, Carpio maintained that the Philippines needs naval powers to assert freedom of navigation in the disputed region.

In contrast to the President’s stand on the issue, Carpio said the Philippines, as mandated by the Constitution, must continue protecting its territory by sending patrol ships to prevent foreign fishing vessels from poaching and fishing in the country’s maritime waters.

Carpio explained that while Malampaya is outside the Philippines’ territorial sea, the area is within the country’s since it is located 43 nautical miles from Palawan.

“Malampaya supplies 40 percent of energy requirement of Luzon. We have to protect that. It’s vital to our interests. There is a provision in the Constitution that the state should protect its EEZ. The Constitution says the Armed Forces is responsible for protecting the national territory. Who is the head of the Armed Forces? The President,” Carpio said.

Brig. Gen. John Janssen, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander and this year’s US PHIBLEX director, described the joint exercises as a success.

Michael Klecheski, deputy chief of mission of the US embassy, Philippine Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Andre Costales and PHIBLEX director Brig. Gen. Maximo Ballesteros also attended the closing rites.

Around 2,000 Filipino and US Marines took part in this year’s joint military exercises.

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