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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines hosts next month the first joint military exercises with the United States under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Marines will participate in the military exercise and war games, amid President Duterte's call for American troops to exit from Mindanao.

The U.S. embassy, in a statement on Saturday, said the AFP has invited the U.S. Marines and Sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group to participate in the 33rd iteration of the Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX33).

The military exercise will be held from October 4 to 12, in Luzon and Palawan.

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The troops will engage in humanitarian civic assistance efforts, an amphibious landing exercise and live-fire training featuring artillery.

Authorities say, the activities were designed to advance cooperation, improve interoperability and assist in strengthening bilateral amphibious capabilities.

"The opportunity to train and build mutually beneficial capabilities with our Armed Forces of the Philippines partners is essential for sharpening our bilateral amphibious and humanitarian assistance capabilities, both hallmarks of the U.S. Marine Corps" said Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen, Commanding General, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

"Exchanging expertise and cultivating our longstanding security alliance provides a cornerstone for security and stability in the region, and has for decades."

PHIBLEX 33 will include approximately 1,400 U.S. service members based in Okinawa, Japan and 500 Philippine Armed Forces personnel, training for joint operations for a natural disaster or armed conflict.

According to the U.S. embassy, the humanitarian and civic assistance portion of the exercise includes engineering projects to improve local infrastructure and health engagements to exchange medical best practices. While field training during the exercise includes small arms and artillery live-fire.

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AFP has yet to confirm the details on the joint exercises released by the U.S. embassy.

Funds for PH may be diverted

Meanwhile, U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Molly Koscina said the $6.7 million funds from the U.S. — which is part of the $32 million appropriated funding for the Philippines — may be diverted to another country.

"The $6.7 million in funds can be used only after agreement between the United States and the Philippines on their specific use.  If no agreement is reached, the funds may be used in a country other than the Philippines," Koscina said.

"The funds will strictly comply with U.S. legal obligations and international law enforcement and policing standards."

Koscina added, the funds are for programs supporting rule of law, due process, and maritime security — and not for law enforcement operations.

"The U.S. has a long-standing partnership with the Philippines that extends over a wide range of issues.  On law enforcement, we hope to continue that partnership," said Koscina.

"We must do so in a way that abides by our national laws, both from the United States and the Philippines, and by international standards."

CNN Philippines' David Santos and JC Gotinga contributed to this report.

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