US, Philippines launch new counter-terrorism drills

This photo taken on October 9, 2015, shows Philippine marines (in green) and their US counterparts (in light brown) after simulating an assault during the annual Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise at a navy base facing the South China Sea in San Antonio, Zambales province, north of Manila. (Photo by AFP)
This photo taken on October 9, 2015, shows Philippine marines (in green) and their US counterparts (in light brown) after simulating an assault during the annual Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise at a navy base facing the South China Sea in San Antonio, Zambales province, north of Manila. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines has launched joint drills with the United States as it struggles to accomplish a costly, protracted battle against the Daesh terrorist group in the south of the country.

The new joint counter-terrorism exercises were launched Monday in different locations in the northern region of Luzon, including the former US military base of Clark. Some 900 US troops are involved in the drill, which will continue for seven days.

The Philippine military hailed the new counter-terror exercises with the US as vital in the country’s ongoing fight against Daesh.

“(The operation) perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage between freedom-loving countries,” Philippine Marines spokeswoman Captain Maria Rowena Dalmacio said.

The Filipino military has refused to disclose the number of its troops.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Manila also hailed the drills in a statement, saying they “will increase overall US and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance.”

The drills apparently show a shift of policy by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in dealing with the US. Duterte ruffled feathers in the White House after he adopted adamant anti-US stances when he came to power last year. He even threatened to sever military ties with the US while calling joint military exercises a “humiliation.”

During a visit to Beijing last October, Duterte, who was apparently seeking bonds with China and Russia, said his country had made a decision to separate from the US. He said he was specifically angry at then US president Barack Obama for criticizing his war on drugs.

Duterte has recently sought to allay concerns about his previous stances against the US.

In a recent statement, the Filipino leader thanked the US for helping his country in the fight against Daesh in the southern city of Marawi. Some 900 people have been killed in the city as the army struggles to purge Daesh from the neighborhoods the group occupied on May 23.

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