"We enjoy a strategic relationship with the United States that is beneficial for both our countries and for the region," Mrs. Arroyo said.
She also pointed to the more palpable benefits of the war games like the "sharing of technologies and tactics in the field" and the "community development projects" that give the military exercises a civilian character. "We have gained much in training side by side with American troops," she said.
About 5,000 Filipino and American troops are expected to take part in military exercises in Palawan, Cavite, Batanes, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Zambales from Feb. 23 to March 4. Included in the Balikatan program of activities are field-training exercises, command post exercises, and civil and humanitarian operations.
The Palawan portion of the war games is proving to be controversial, with some critics calling attention to its proximity to the disputed Spratly Islands.Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, raised the possibility of the military exercises provoking China, one of the Spratly claimants. — Marichu Villanueva, Jaime Laude and Jose Rodel Clapano
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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