MANILA, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The annual joint military exercise between the Philippines and the United States for 2012 was officially launched at a military camp in Manila on Monday.
The 12-day exercise started with a high-sounding opening ceremony attended by Philippine Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Tomas at the military's general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
At least 4,500 American and 2,300 Filipino troops will take part in the joint military exercise dubbed as "Balikatan" or " shoulder to shoulder", which will be running until April 27.
The joint exercises will be conducted simultaneously in different areas across the Philippines. It includes the live fire exercises in Nueva Ecija province in Luzon, the amphibious raid at Palawan, and the conduct of a command post exercise in Camp Aguinaldo where Filipino and U.S. soldiers, with the participation of several countries like Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia will simulate a response for a strong quake.
The Philippine military said the venue of the actual training exercises includes the South China Sea off Palawan where both forces will be pursuing amphibious exercises, and gas and oil platform defense and retake.
Prior to the exercise, Emmanuel Garcia, Balikatan public affairs officer, said Sunday the exercises is not in anyway related to the ongoing standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships at the Huangyan Island in South China Sea. He said the military training will be focused on maritime security, and counter-terrorism, among others. He said this is not meant against any country.
In an interview with radio dzRB on Sunday, Philippine deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Balikatan exercises have anything to do with the incident in the South China Sea, adding "the exercises are always scheduled in advance."