Church leaders warned the United States and the Philippines not to "provoke" China as some 5,000 American and 4,000 Filipino troops began major military exercises on April 4.
"While the military exercise will make China hesitate to harass Filipino fishermen near the disputed territories, [the exercises] will also add to the tensions and might create misunderstanding," said Bishop Pedro Arigo of Palawan.
The prelate said the Philippine government should make sure that the training exercises are confined within the Philippine territory.
Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose Nueva Ecija said the exercises should be conducted "for the sake of improving capabilities of the countries and should not be provocative."
U.S. and Philippine troops began major exercises even as China warned "outsiders" against interfering in the South China Sea territorial disputes.
China lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, which is also partially claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
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