US, Philippines conduct their second counterterrorism exercise this year
By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 19, 2019
The second phase of a counterterrorism exercise between U.S. and Philippine armed forces is underway in the Philippines, according to the Japan-based 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
The semiannual Marine Aviation Support Activity also focuses on mutual defense and disaster relief and allows the armed forces to improve their ability to work together, a Marine statement said. The exercise is scheduled to conclude Thursday.
This phase of the exercise involves Philippine troops working alongside approximately 120 Marines from Okinawa-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 and 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Drills include air lifts, air raid rehearsals and fast-rope training.
“MASA 19.2 is an opportunity to amplify the proven alliance between armed forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces,” 2nd Lt. Alyssa Morales, a 1st Marine Aircraft Wing spokeswoman, told Stars and Stripes Friday via email.
The Marine air exercise is based around a fictional scenario that is not related to any current event, Morales said.
However, in 2017, hundreds of militants linked to the Islamic State occupied the southern city of Marawi, forcing Philippine government forces – assisted by the U.S. military – to fight a bloody five-month battle to liberate the city.
On Thursday, the United States contributed $4.5 million toward relief efforts and other assistance for those affected or displaced by the conflict, according to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The U.S. donation total now stands at $63.2 million.
The State Department announced in May that the U.S. plans to build new antiterrorism training centers in Southeast Asia and East Africa. One of the new facilities, in the Philippines, would train elite counterterrorism units from across the region, including Malaysia and Indonesia, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The first phase of this year’s Marine aviation exercise took place Jan. 16 to Feb. 8 at Basa Air Base, Naval Education Training Center and Marine Base Gregorio Lim.