CAMP GENERAL EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City – Three thousand Filipino soldiers and 2,500 American soldiers will work together ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ in this year’s PH-US Balikatan which opened today, May 5 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Commissioned Officers Club.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario attended as guest of honor and speaker. He is joined by Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, and AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel T. Bautista.
AFP Command and General Staff College Commandant and Philippines Exercise Director for Balikatan 2014, Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye and U.S. Officer in Charge of Balikatan 2014 Joint Exercises Support Group, Col. John A. Rutherford unfurled the Balikatan Flag marking the official start of the annual bilateral exercises.
This year’s exercise is the 30th iteration of Balikatan in the country, and will run until May 16. It will focus on Maritime Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR), and Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA).
The staff planning exercises are slated here in Camp Aguinaldo and in Western Command in Puerto Princesa while the field training exercises will be conducted in military camps in Luzon.
Among the field training events are the Maritime Surveillance Systems Demonstration at the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales; Demonstration on Air Movement, Live Fire, Counter Improvised Explosives Devices and Mass Casualty Response at Fort Magsaysay; Combined Cooperative Healthcare Engagement in Tacloban, Leyte; Showcase of Philippine Air Force and US Air Power at Clark Air Base; Urban Search and Rescue field training exercises at Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu City; and Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise at Crow Valley Range in Tarlac.
Meanwhile, Filipino and U.S. forces began conducting community infrastructure projects in Legazpi City, Albay last week. This is part of Balikatan’s HCA that will focus on revitalizing the interoperability of the Philippines and U.S. militaries through the conduct of disaster rehabilitation and rural development projects. These will materialize through the Engineering Civic-Action Programs (ENCAP), Cooperative Health Engagements (CHE), Symposiums, and Community Relation (COMREL) activities.
Exercise Balikatan is an annual bilateral combined exercise initiated by the governments of the Republic of the Philippines and United States. It is structured to further develop the AFP in crisis-action planning, enhancing its ability to effectively conduct counterterrorism operations, and promote interoperability between participating countries. It will also demonstrate cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the U.S., consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, as we continue our commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other.