- The exercise was not directed at China despite being staged on a beach facing the South China Sea, where Beijing has built several military installations
- The drills were part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the country’s defences against foreign armies and other hostile forces
The Philippine Marines this weekend showcased its eight brand new amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) in drills simulating "a scenario of an island retake", the Philippine military said.
Armed forces spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato said the exercise was not directed at China despite being staged on a beach facing the South China Sea, where Beijing has built several military installations on artificial islands.
"It was just a scenario exercise and not directed to any specific incident or area," Detoyato told the South China Morning Post. "The ship to shore exercise involved our newly acquired AAVs.
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"These areas of exercise have been used for a long time because of the proximity to our naval camps and reservations," he said, explaining why the training had been conducted on Subic Bay, the site of the largest former US naval base in Asia, which adjoins the South China Sea.
The exercises were part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the country's defences against foreign armies and other hostile forces, including local communists and Muslim extremists.
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Espinosa, who commands the amphibious landing force, on Saturday described the exercise as "historic" because it was the first time Philippine Marines had used their own AAVs.
"We have long done this (exercise) with our counterparts with US Marine Corps," he said. "But what is significant, historic and unique is we used our own AAVs. For the longest time, we had been conducting this exercise bilaterally with the US Marine Corps. Right now, we are doing it on our own unilaterally."
Last year, Philippine soldiers and US counterparts took part in a Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) exercise in the same area. Philippine Marines operated US AAVs, which are similar to those newly bought from South Korea. According to the exercise director, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Salamat, that exercise simulated the defence of a "threatened" area from an unidentified "enemy".
These areas of exercise have been used for a long time because of the proximity to our naval camps and reservationsColonel Noel Detoyato
The new AAVs were one of the last major military equipment purchases by former president Benigno Aquino before he stepped down in 2016. Korean company Samsung Techwin (later renamed Hanwha Techwin) won the bid to sell eight KAAV7A1 vehicles for 2.42 billion pesos (US$46.4 million).
As relations between the Philippines and China deteriorated during a stand-off in Scarborough Shoal in 2012, Aquino upgraded the military's ageing air and sea assets by purchasing two new frigates, two long-range patrol aircraft and three air surveillance radars.
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