2012-10-09 — A strong United States military presence in the Asia-Pacific region would deter China from bullying smaaller countries like the Philippines, thus said an officer of the US Navy following Monday’s opening of the annual Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX 2013).
The PHIBLEX 13 formally kicked off at the former US naval facility with a ceremony held aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek. Subic Bay is located 150 nautical miles away from the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) shoal.
Officers of USS Bonhomme Richard said that Chinese ships tailed the US assault vessel while on its way to Subic.
While most US and Philippine officials have repeatedly stressed that the joint exercises between the two countries are not directed toward China, one navy officer interviewed aboard USS Bonhomme Richard said otherwise.
The US Navy officer, who declined to be identified, said: “Basically… we are here to protect the interest of small countries like the Philippines.”
He said the US military presence in the region is needed to prevent China from bullying smaller countries.
“The United States have to maintain our presence in the area so smaller countries like the Philippines will not be bullied by China, and even Iran. That is why we are showing our strong presence in the region,” the officer said, citing the deployment of more US Marines to Australia.
He added that US forces are now frequently making visits to the Philippines, particularly in Manila and Olongapo “to show China that we are here, that we’re not going to leave these guys… we’re not gonna let them bully the Philippines.”
Asked if the US considers China’s military buildup as a threat, the officer said no.
“I don’t think the US military is threatened… but of course we are always on the lookout,” he stressed.
According to the officer, the US government is well aware of all actions undertaken by China.
Close to 4,000 Philippine and American military forces are taking part in the 10-day bilateral training that will be conducted at sea and ashore, with focus on several humanitarian assistance and infrastructure projects along with tactical field training.
Specifically, training will consist of a staff planning exercise, a static aircraft display, multiple field training exercises (FTX), and humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) projects to include medical, dental, and engineering projects.
On the part of the US Armed Forces, joining the PHIBLEX 13 are troops from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) under the command of Col. John Merna. The 31st MEU personnel arrived in Subic last October 5 aboard the amphibious assault ship.
US embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Brian L. Goldbeck said the commencement of this year’s PHIBLEX is another demonstration of the great friendship between the governments of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.
“This 29th iteration of PHIBLEX reinforces our long-time partnership and demonstrates the US and Philippines’ commitment to mutual security,” said Goldbeck.