A United States military official said he has reminded his men participating in the annual U.S.-Philippines war games, which formally started Thursday, to "behave" during their two-week stay in this Southeast Asian country, after a rape case involving a U.S. marine four years ago has rocked the relationship of the two allies by tradition.
Interviewed after the formal opening of Balikatan joint military exercises, Brig. Gen. Ronald Bailey, deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and concurrent commander of the3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said the Filipino culture should also be respected.
"To honor the culture of this country and also, good and order and discipline is always paramount in the minds of all our Marines, sailors and airmen, all the time," Bailey said.
The military drill, which will run through until April 30, involves at least 6,000 American troops and 2,000 Filipino soldiers this year. A number of humanitarian projects covered by the Balikatan, including construction of roads and school buildings, are already underway.
The war games will be held at the traditional training areas inCrow Valley in Tarlac province, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, Clark Air Base also in Olongapo city; and at the Marine Base Ternate and Sangley Point, both in Cavite province, the Philippine military authorities said.
In December 2006, a Makati City court convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment U.S. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith for raping a Filipina at the former U.S. navy base in Subic on November 2005 during an rest and recreation after a training with Filipino troops.
Smith remains in the custody of the U.S. embassy in Manila, prompting some sectors to call for the abrogation of the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides legal framework to Balikatan and other military exercises, because of supposed disadvantageous provisions on custody of U.S. servicemen facing charges.