MANILA, April 5 (UPI) -- The Philippines and United States began an annual joint military exercise in the South China Sea Friday, training 8,000 troops for disaster relief operations.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, in ceremonies beginning the 12-day exercise, spoke of the Philippines' need to "build our own capacity to defend ourselves, and defend ourselves, we will."
The military maneuvers come at a time the Philippines and China are involved in a diplomatic fight over claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have claims to the sea.
The Philippines has taken the matter to international arbitration, without China's participation, the Voice of America reported.