From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 9): Ormoc looks forward to hosting Balikatan in April
The Balikatan military exercise between the Philippines and the United States will push through in this city next month, Mayor Richard Gomez said.
Gomez said he is amenable to hosting the exercise since it will help improve the peace and order situation in the city.
Initial talks with a group of American and Filipino soldiers were done in October and finalized last December.
Gomez said the Balikatan will have components such as a medical mission, book donation, and construction and repair of school buildings and health centers.
The exercise is designed to give Philippine and US military forces a chance to exchange combat expertise.
The plan to hold the military exercise here came on the heels of President Duterte’s statement last year asking US military forces to leave Mindanao in the wake of increased security threats as a result of the heightened offensive against the Abu Sayyaf.
Capt. Louis Kalmar, humanitarian and civic assistance planner of the Philippine-US Balikatan program, recently visited the city to discuss the holding of the exercise with local officials.
US soldiers arrived for the Balikatan exercise in 2000. It was the first since the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement signed by the Philippines and the US.
In 2014, the two countries signed a deal for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and it was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Balikatan 2017 in Ormoc is the first in the Eastern Visayas region.