Some 2,600 Philippine and US Marines will join this year’s edition of the “Kaagapay ng mga Mandirigma ng Dagat” (Kamandag) exercises that aim to enhance the interoperability of both forces.

Philippine Marine Corps deputy commandant and “Kamandag” exercise director Brig. Gen. Jimmy Larida said about 1,732 Filipino Marines and some 902 US troops would participate in the exercises from Nov. 9 to 17

Also taking part in the exercises are 57 personnel of the South Korea Marine Corps and 50 personnel of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

South Korean and Japanese troops only joined as observers in the 2022 iteration of “Kamandag.” Eight personnel from the United Kingdom will observe the annual exercise for the first time.

As this developed, a recent Pulse Asia survey commissioned by international think tank Stratbase ADR Institute showed that majority of Filipinos want the administration to strengthen its economic relations with the United States and Japan.

The polling firm released the survey results on Wednesday during a forum entitled “Advancing the Philippine Manufacturing Sector for National Prosperity organized by Stratbase. The forum was part of the Philippine Economic Society’s 61st Annual Meeting and Conference.

The survey conducted from Sept. 10 to 14 asked 1,200 respondents all over the country to identify three countries they believe the current administration should strengthen its economic relations with.

Results showed that 74% of Filipinos want Philippines to have stronger economic ties with the United States while 55% chose Japan. Forty-six percent (46%) of Filipinos want stronger economic ties with Australia, 40% with Canada, and 26% with the European Union.

The same survey also showed that 70% of Filipinos agree that the private sector plays an instrumental role in ensuring economic security, in which individuals enjoy a stable source of income and are consistently able to meet their basic needs.

Furthermore, when asked to identify three ways the private sector can help in the attainment of economic security, majority of Filipinos said that it can make goods that are more affordable and accessible to Filipino consumers (64%), create jobs (60%), and expand livelihood opportunities (58%).

“(Kamandag will) rehearse emerging concepts while also strengthening the relationship and developing interoperability between the Philippine Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps, as well as with our Japanese, Korean, and UK counterparts,” Larida said.

“Kamandag” activities are expected to take place in various locations in Luzon and Mindanao.

Larida said the drills aim to enhance bilateral cooperation and interoperability among participating forces in conducting tactical operations.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and French Ambassador to the Philippines Marie Fontanel on Tuesday tackled enforcing international law in the West Philippine Sea.

Brawner likewise thanked the French government for its vocal support of the Philippines amid illegal and aggressive actions by China in the region.

“We appreciate all the support and help that you are giving our government and our armed forces, and we are looking forward to more engagements with you,” Brawner said.

In October, France expressed its “deep concern” over the collision of Philippine and Chinese vessels near Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

In September, President Marcos and French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call discussed territorial and security issues in the WPS.