Troops from the US and the Philippines recently conducted their first joint airfield seizure drill, practicing a real world situation in which a foreign power attempts to capture one of Manila’s islands in the South China Sea.
The drill, part of the annual Balikatan exercises, was carried out on Lubang Island, one of the largest isles that make up the Lubang island group in the Philippines’ Occidental Mindoro province.
“If they [Filipinos] were to have any small islands taken over by a foreign military, this is definitely a dress rehearsal that can be used in the future,” Major Christopher Bolz, a US Army special forces company commander who took part in planning for the exercises, told Channel News Asia.
“I think the scenario is very realistic, especially for an island nation such as the Philippines.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Pondanera, commander of the exercise control group with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFP-SOCOM), told the outlet that military officials called for an invasion scenario for the 2019 drills after realizing during a review that “this is one of the [training] gaps” felt by Philippines forces.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines must be ready to any eventualities,” he said.
This year’s exercises come at a time when China has been increasingly demonstrating its dominance in the disputed South China Sea, building aggressively on its territorial claims there, though most are disputed and…