The Philippines has announced its decision to hold a large-scale combat exercise with US forces in October. Approximately 1,400 American personnel and 500 Filipino marines will take part in the drills, which will involve amphibious landing and live-fire exercises at a northern gunnery range in the US, Filipino army officials said on Thursday (22 September).
Manila's announcement has come even as President Rodrigo Duterte has soured relations with the US after criticising America's security policies. Duterte also said that he would not allow his forces to patrol the disputed South China Sea along with American personnel. According to reports, Manila is wary of upsetting China as there is always a threat of an armed conflict in the region.
On Thursday, Duterte said that he wanted American troops out of southern Philippines as minority Muslims in the region resented the presence of US forces. He stated that he would chart a foreign policy that would give Manila more independence so that it does not have to rely on the US. However, he said he will not revoke the mutual defence treaty and was committed over maintaining a healthy association with the country.
Under Duterte's predecessor, Manila had locked horns with Beijing over longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. But some experts believe that Duterte has been soft on China, unlike his verbal rebukes and incendiary remarks against the US, UN or EU.
In a recent speech, the 71-year-old had said that he would travel to China this year and told Chinese businessmen that they would see him "often", hinting that he was looking at enhancing trade ties with the Asian giant, Reuters reported.
Philippine has maintained warm relations with Japan as well. Tokyo has agreed to provide Manila with 10 coastguard vessels to boost its maritime security efforts.