MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than 5,000 U.S. and Filipino troops have begun two weeks of military exercises to prepare for jointly dealing with any potential crisis in the Philippines, which is prone to natural disasters and has been locked in a standoff with China over a disputed shoal.

U.S. and Philippine military officials said Monday at an opening ceremony that 3,000 Filipino soldiers and 2,500 American military personnel would take part in the annual “Balikatan,” or shoulder to shoulder, exercises. They said the maneuvers would focus on maritime security and disaster response, but did not mention China as an imaginary target of the drills, which will include live-fire and maritime surveillance exercises.

The Philippines has turned to the U.S. to modernize its ill-equipped military amid the increasingly tense territorial rifts with China.