A military official Monday said that total of 2,800 Philippine troops and 2,600 USA forces will participate in this year's 33rd iteration of Exercise Balikatan between Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops and United States forces.
After coming to power in June a year ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the 2017 exercises would be the last.
The annual joint exercises pushed through despite Duterte's threat past year to have them scrapped altogether.
The number of troops, joined by some Australian and Japanese soldiers, has been considerably reduced as compared to previous years, when 11,000 United States and Philippine soldiers took part in the exercises.
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Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, AFP, Balikatan 2017 co-director, US Amb.to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim, Nat'l Defense Sec.
The scaled-back exercises come after Duterte changed the Philippines' foreign policy, distancing the country from Washington and aligning itself more with China with whom it has signed several cooperation agreements and has proposed strengthening defence ties.
Exercise spokesman Maj. Celeste Frank Sayson said there are around 6,000 participating troops, consisting of some 2,800 Philippine troops and 2,600 US troops, in this year's "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) drills.
Sayson said compared to previous Balikatan exercises, the number of participants this year is much lesser.
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This year's exercises will be based on a scenario of troops responding to a super typhoon hitting the Philippines. The two countries are long-time treaty allies and are conducting the yearly training for the 33rd time to ensure coordination and interoperability of their forces.
Mr Duterte had earlier sought to scrap live-fire drills and war games near the South China Sea from this year's Balikatan - a Tagalog word meaning "shoulder to shoulder" - to appease China.
Nicholson said they were not disappointed the exercise would only cover counterterrorism and humanitarian response under its scaled-down activities, noting the scope of the bilateral exercise changes every year.
He said that based on the guidance coming from Philippine political leaders, the focus of this year's drills should be humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counterterrorism.
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