US, Philippine Marines in live-fire manoeuvres
US and Filipino marines staged armoured assault manoeuvres on Friday as part of annual military exercises the Philippines has deemed vital in building its capacity to defend itself.
This year's edition is taking part amid a tense territorial dispute between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea, as well as bellicose anti-US rhetoric by North Korea.
More than 8,000 soldiers from both countries, 30 military aircraft including a dozen US F/A-18 Hornets and three naval vessels are taking part in 12 days of military exercises that end on Wednesday.
The exercise, part of annual large-scale war games, highlighted how two allied armed forces with unequal military capability can work together to defeat a common enemy, said First Lieutenant Garth Langley, a US participant.
"They didn't have their own vehicles, but we put them inside our vehicles and showed them what we can do with inter-operability," Langley told AFP, speaking of their Filipino Marine counterparts.
About 60 US and Filipino Marines aboard four US AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles ploughed through the volcanic ash of Crow Valley, a gunnery range laid waste by the 1991 eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo.
The marines fired live rounds from the armoured vehicles' mounted machine guns, after which their occupants got off and used their automatic rifles to hit designated targets, said Langley, a 25-year-old from California.
Afterwards, a US F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet screamed atop the Crow Valley canyons in a related military exercise being conducted from the nearby Clark air field.
At a time of rising regional tensions, the Philippines has sought closer diplomatic and military ties with the United States, its former colonial ruler.
The two countries share a 61-year-old mutual defence pact, which requires the US to come to the aid of the Philippines if it is attacked.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said at the opening of the manoeuvres last week that the war games are an important contribution to building his country's capacity to defend its territorial integrity.
However First Lieutenant Langley said Friday's live-fire exercise was not conducted with a specific enemy force in mind.
"We're focused on what we're doing. It doesn't matter what's going on in the world," he added.