|U.S. and Philippine troops simulate a beach landing during joint military exercises.
MANILA — As the 32nd Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX 16) formally opened on October 1, US Marine Expeditionary Brigade head Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said the joint exercises between Filipino and American military units is instrumental in saving lives during times of calamities.
Around 860 US Marines and 748 of their Filipino counterparts are taking part in the annual military maneuvers.
Kennedy, meanwhile, assured assistance to the Philippines should there be any outside threat in the wake of increasing tension between Manila and China and other claimants to islands, reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea.
“If the Philippines sovereignty be challenged or threatened by any power, the US military is more than prepared to respond “in a matter of hours,” Kennedy assured.
Kennedy made the assurance during the opening ceremonies of 32nd Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX 16) at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Naval Station Bonifacio, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
Kennedy was referring to the Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 by the US and the Philippines.
“Sixty-four years, this alliance (has) held, our mutual security has been upheld to the close working relationship that we have forged in that time, and I would tell anybody, 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 is not a hollow promise,” he added.
Kennedy stressed that the nine-day PHIBLEX 16, which has a modest budget and prepared within a minimum time, will accomplish more than what the US 3rd Marine Expedition Brigade participated throughout the region.
“Not only will we work on a higher end of the range of military operations, we’re doing staff exercises down in Palawan, we’ll be honing our interoperability and our procedures in getting to know each other should we be called upon to operate as a military force, but likewise we’re participating in humanitarian activities, there are joint combined engineering projects taking place down in Palawan that I think really are the highlight of this exercise,” he added.
“It’s an opportunity for marines and sailors of both the United States and the Philippine Armed Forces to interact with their people and when you inspire confidence in the people that those under right are way of, our vocation, our way of existence, that you truly have won their hearts and minds and I think that will be accomplished,” Kennedy stressed
Kennedy said saving lives was demonstrated during the aftermath of Typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013 when US forces responded to Philippine calls for help within hours, the American official said. “
“Two years ago we concluded PHIBLEX 29 and we shook hands with our Filipino partners and we wished them the best of another year and (we’ll) meet again the following year and unfortunately nature intervened and as Typhoon Yolanda bore down on the central part of the Philippines to the Visayas, you know what happened within your country,” Kennedy narrated.
“And our response occurred within a matter of hours and our interoperability happened almost instantly because we had just trained together over the course of the preceding exercise and we understood each others’ capability, and understood each others’ shortfalls and we’re able to work together as a true team on the behalf of the people in Samar, in Leyte, in Roxas and the other portions of the stricken area and in general I think that we saved lives, I think that the worthiness of this exercise bore fruit in the lives that were saved following the disaster,” he added.
And despite the Philippine and US Marines having a rock-solid partnership and really does need that intensive training, Kennedy said the increasingly complex security situation makes the annual exercise vital.
“Thirty two times of attempting the same exercise you think that we would have this down pat and we wouldn’t need to train anymore, but I would tell you every year we get together we learn new lessons, and 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,” he added.