Capt. Ryan F. Lacuesta, Philippine Marine Corps public affairs director, announced on Thursday that Manila and Washington will hold the annual amphibious landing exercise PHIBLEX 33, beginning next week.
"The annual exercise will be held on October 4-12 with the opening ceremony set to be held at the Philippine Marine Corps headquarters, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City," Lacuesta said.
The announcement comes as the relations between the allies have become strained in recent weeks.
In early September, US President Barack Obama canceled his meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum, as the latter had publicly called the US leader a “son of a whore.” Obama had criticized Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs, and its use of unregulated public militias.
Duterte then called on US Special Forces to withdraw from the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao, where they have been deployed since 2002.
“The Special Forces, they have to go,” the Philippine Star cited Duterte as saying on September 12. “I could not speak then out of respect and I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go.”
China has laid claim to the entire territory of the South China Sea, an area crossed by important trade routes and reportedly rich in oil and gas deposits. In July, the Hague Court of Arbitration ruled that Beijing’s territorial claims in the sea are baseless, in a case Manila brought to the court in 2013.