PHIBLEX formally opens, PH-US military exercises push through

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Amid President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncements about limiting military interactions and cooperation with the United States in the future, military exercises between the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and United States Marine Corps pushed through.

On Tuesday, The Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX), now on its 33rd edition, formally began.

While the status of future military exercises remain unclear, authorities are positive it won't affect PH-US relationship.

PMC Commandant Maj. Gen. Andre Costales for one, said the PMC and the United States Marine Corps cooperation "has withstood the test of time."

Female color guards carried the national flags - a symbolic gesture of the increasing role of women in both countries' military services.

The ceremony underscored the long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the United States — a relationship that has come under intense scrutiny and heavy criticism by no less than President Duterte.

"The value of our service members training side by side, building friendships and resilience between our two countries cannot be overstated," U.S. Marines Brig. Gen. John Jansen said.

About 1,500 troops, mostly Americans, will hold training exercises in different parts of Luzon until October 12.

Also read: PH-US military exercise continues amid Duterte's call for American troops to exit from Mindanao

PHIBLEX will also emphasize joint drills on humanitarian aid and disaster response — training put to use during past disasters such as the U.S. Marines' critical response to Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

"The MV22 has evacuated more than 1200 people while delivering more than 20 tons of supplies, none of which could have been possible without the Philippine government and military's fast action, and the practice we have received in this training together," Jansen said.

Marine Corps officials from both countries evaded answering the media's questions about President Duterte's anti-US pronouncements.

But Costales seems to echo the President's line of opening defense alliances with countries other than the U.S.

"We must now seek to expand our initiatives with other willing partners who share with us our vision of commitment, cooperation and capability to protect and preserve our cherished freedom," Costales said.

The President wants the PHIBLEX to be the last joint war-games held during his term.

Alliance commitments to continue

In a statement released to CNN Philippines, the U.S. Embassy in Manila says the Defense Department has yet to contact them with regards to the President's remarks.

"We have not been officially contacted by Philippine Defense Department authorities regarding President Duterte's statements," the statement read. "We will continue to work closely with the government of the Philippines to address any concerns they may have."

It also said, the U.S. will continue its alliance commitments with the Philippines, and they expect the Philippines "to do the same."

"Our bilateral relationship which is so strong and has endured so many decades and we are continuing the same priorities we've always had, working together on a variety of issue including regional security, including counter terrorism," U.S. Embassy's Deputy Press Attache Emma Nagy said.

Also read: Philippine Defense Secretary: We need the U.S., defense agreement should be honored