U.S. Navy CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters take off from the USS Bonhomme Richard during aviation operations exercises in the East China Sea, April 23, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright

U.S. Navy CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters take off from the USS Bonhomme Richard during aviation operations exercises in the East China Sea, April 23, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday downplayed the live-ammunition drills conducted by China in the disputed South China Sea, saying it is the nation’s right to conduct such exercises.

“It’s the right of any sovereign nation to conduct any kind of exercises that they think are relevant to their own security interest,” said military spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla Jr.

Chinese state media reported that the air and sea drills held Tuesday involved more than 100 ships, dozens of aircraft, several missile launch battalions, and information warfare troops.

Reports did not specify where exactly the exercises took place.

China has become increasingly assertive as it claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea; while Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam also have overlapping claims in the disputed area.

Padilla said the government of China should be transparent in all its exercises so as not to be misinterpreted to be threatening anyone.

“Everybody in the region, the United States also included, is encouraging them to be transparent so that all of their motives, all of their activities will not be questioned. This is something that the community of nations and among the military are trying to establish,” he said.

Padilla said authorities are closely monitoring China’s exercises to ensure that these are not conducted within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We have our forces in our own territorial waters so from that end and from the capabilities that we have, namomonitor naman natin,” he said. (MNS)