Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ormoc to host ‘Balikatan’ military exercise in April

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): Ormoc to host ‘Balikatan’ military exercise in April

The “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercise between the Philippines and the United States will push through in this city next month, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez said.

Gomez said he is amenable to hosting the military exercise as 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 in December last year.

Gomez said the Balikatan military exercise will have components such as a medical mission, book donation, and construction and repair of school buildings and health centers.

The military exercises are designed to serve as a venue for Philippine and US military forces to exchange combat expertise.

The plan to hold military exercises here came on the heels of President Rodrigo R. 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 with the local government officials the holding of the military exercise.

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 United States of America.

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 City is the first in Eastern Visayas region.

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