US, Philippine troops launch drill to sharpen coastal defense efforts

Basilio Sepe
Zambales, Philippines

Amphibious Assault Vehicles carrying U.S. and Philippine troops head toward the beach during Kamandag 6, the joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


The Amphibious Assault Vehicles cross the beach during the joint military exercise in Zambales province in the Philippines, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


U.S. troops (left) watch South Korean forces disembark for the Kamandag exercise in Zambales province, the Philippines, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


U.S. Marines establish fighting positions during the Kamandag joint training exercise in Zambales province, the Philippines, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


South Korean troops rush to combat positions during the Kamandag military exercise in the Philippines, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


Filipino Marines land on the beach during the Kamandag joint military exercise in Zambales province, north of Manila, Oct. 7, 2022. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

U.S. and Filipino Marine forces stormed a beachfront facing the South China Sea on Friday in a mock assault aimed at sharpening their skills on coastal defense.  

The war games, called Kamandag 6, involve 2,550 United States Marines and 630 Filipino counterparts. 

Unlike the previous five drills, troops from South Korea and Japan – two countries that are also seeking to blunt China’s military influence in the region amid territorial disputes – sent troops as observers, officials had announced. On Friday, South Korean troops participated in the drills.

“What you see here is the strength of democratic allies,” said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts who served in the U.S. Marines. “There are countries that believe in freedom of democracy and practice it regularly.” 

The drills show that Washington was prepared to work with its Asian allies locked in security concerns triggered by tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, he said.

 “We can work together. It is not easy. There’s a lot of coordination. And that is the strength the U.S. brings to this. It’s a historic partnership with countries like the Philippines, Korea and Japan,” Moulton told reporters. 

Col. Romulo Quemado, commander of the Filipino Marines coastal defense regiment, said Friday’s drills were meant to sharpen coordination in the area of amphibious landing as well as in responding to chemical or biological attacks. 

“We have continued to build on the combined competencies on amphibious operation that is solid, and more importantly, the continuing relations with our allies and friends in the region,” he said. 

The drills come during the same week as the third resupply of its BRP Sierra Madre outpost along the disputed Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) in the South China Sea since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office. The three resupplies by civilian ships occurred without Chinese intervention, whose ships frequently harassed such efforts in the past.

The Kamandag, which means “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea” and runs through Oct. 14, will include a combined live-fire exercise in central Luzon featuring aircraft and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, as well as amphibious operations along the island’s eastern and northern coasts, military officials have said.

The exercises are taking place amid Chinese military expansionism in the South China Sea where Beijing is locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Beijing claims historical rights to much of the region, including waters reaching rivals’ shores.

While Indonesia does not regard itself as party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.


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