MANILA, Philippines – U.S. and Philippine forces have opened joint combat exercises that the Philippines' new leader has said will be the last such drills of his six-year presidency.
Marine commanders from both sides said at an opening ceremony Tuesday that the exercises are aimed at improving readiness by the two countries to respond to a range of crises while deepening their historic ties.
Angered by U.S. criticism of his deadly anti-drug fight, Duterte said last week that the maneuvers will be the last under his presidency. His foreign secretary later said the decision wasn't final.
Philippine military officials said Tuesday they couldn't answer if the exercises will be the last under Duterte, or whether troops have been affected by his remarks.
The eight-day drills involve 1,100 American and 400 Filipino military personnel.