BALIKATAN 2004 WON'T BE HELD IN SPRATLYS

MANILA, February 13, 2004
 (STAR) It’s not in the Spratlys.

About 2,3000 Filipino troops and 2,500 American soldiers will hold three joint Balikatan military exercises in Palawan, Batanes, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Cavite from Feb. 3 to March 7.

Phase one is a combined task force seminar and command post exercise to be held in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

It will involve the 3rd US Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the Armed Forces Western Command.

Phase 2 is cross-country and field training exercises to improve the interoperability of Philippine and US armed Forces.

It will be conducted in various training areas in Luzon to include Clark Field in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and the Marine base in Ternate, Cavite.

Phase 3 will cover medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action programs in Puerto Princesa and Basco, Batanes.

It aims to improve cooperation in civic action among Filipino and American soldiers, and to train civil-military operators to work together.

The joint exercise is the 20th in a series of Balikatan war games to be held by Filipino and American troops in the country.

Meanwhile, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said the presence of American troops in the Spartlys and Palawan could lead to military tension among countries claiming the Spratlys.

"The government may claim that the deployment of US troops in the disputed Spratly islands may be part of the country’s joint military exercises with the US, but it may not be perceived as such by our neighboring countries," he said. – Jose Rodel Clapano


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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