About 5,000 U.S. and Philippine troops began new annual military exercises on Friday aimed at strengthening the Philippines' fight against terrorism. Over the next two weeks, U.S. Marines and sailors will join Filipino soldiers in the training maneuvers, called "Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise."
Joint exercises by the two countries have taken on an urgency in recent years as the Philippine military has launched U.S.-backed offensives against al-Qaida-linked groups in the restive Muslim south.
"The exercises are designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue the professional relationship between the United States and Philippine armed forces," Philippine marine spokesman Maj. Melquiades Ordiales said in a statement, as the two forces held an opening ceremony for the exercises in Manila.
Most of the events, such as amphibious landing exercises, will be held on the main northern island of Luzon, including at the former U.S. Air Base in Clark, said U.S. Marine Capt. Burrell Parmer.
U.S. forces have been providing intelligence support and supplying communications to Filipino troops hunting for the al-Qaida-linked groups Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, reports the AP. I.L.