More than 6,000 Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen participating in a major exercise in the Philippines won't be enjoying the local nightlife.

U.S. Pacific Command is strictly limiting liberty for troops participating in the Balikatan exercise alongside 5,000 Filipino troops.

"Service members participating in, and supporting Balikatan 2015 may only eat in restaurants inside their hotel or within close proximity to their hotel (walking distance) if their hotel does not have a restaurant inside," said Army Maj. David Eastburn, a PACOM spokesman.

Absolutely off limits will be the bars and nightclubs, Eastburn said, but commands can organize their own events.

"Bars and nightclubs are off limits and all participants in Balikatan 2015 must be back in their hotel by 10 p.m. Service members may participate in command sponsored community relations events and ships may authorize events on the pier."

The exercise, which begins April 20 and runs for 10 days, involves elements from the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the amphibious transport dock Green Bay and various Navy construction, riverine and explosive ordnance disposal units.

Liberty has been restricted for U.S. troops in the Philippines since a marine was accused of murdering a local transgender woman, Jennifer Laude, after a night out on the town.

Lance Cpl. Joseph Pemberton is on trial in the Philippines and faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

The killing infuriated many Filipinos, who have called for their government to scrap the newly minted 2014 Visiting Forces Agreement, a major foreign policy victory for the Obama administration, which rekindled military ties with the country after decades of frosty relations.

But the Philippine government has stood by the VFA, saying it will not renegotiate the deal.

Balikatan, which means "shoulder-to-shoulder," is a field training exercise that includes a number of humanitarian assistance projects.

"Our armed forces and the U.S. armed forces are coming together for these mutual defense and disaster response exercises towards a more responsive partnership to the community, focusing on development and community service," Philippine Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc told The Philippine Star.

In addition to the 11,000 U.S. and Philippine troops, Australia is sending about 60 troops and an aircraft to the exercise.

The exercise comes at a time of rising tension between China and its neighbors over its construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago, which lies off the coasts of Malaysia and the Philippines.

Analysts believe that the Chinese government is seeking to expand its exclusive rights to resources off its coast, including fisheries and mineral deposits.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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