Illustrative image (Source: Reuters/VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – The Philippines and the United States on May 8 began their annual joint military exercise named “Balikatan” (Shoulder-to-shoulder).

Exercise spokesman Celeste Frank Sayson said that this year’s drill gathers about 2,800 Philippine troops and 2,600 US troops.

Soldiers from Japan and Australia are also taking part in the exercise, he stated.

This year’s exercise, scheduled to last until May 19, focuses on humanitarian and disaster response operations, and search and rescue activities in urban areas in Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Isabela and Samar provinces.

Last year, more than 10,000 soldiers joined the military exercise, which for years included live-fire exercises and amphibious landing exercises.

After coming to power in June last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the 2017 exercises would be the last. However, the Philippine military confirmed last month that the exercises would go ahead without live-fire exercises.

The two countries hold three military drills each year, with Balikatan the largest.-VNA