From the Manila Bulletin (May 9): Exercise directors expect a very productive 33rd Balikatan Exercises
The Balikatan exercise directors of both the Philippines and the United States said this year they are looking forward to a very productive 33rd Balikatan Exercises, which focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations and counterterrorism.
In a joint press conference held on Monday (May 8) at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, shortly after the opening ceremonies of the Balikatan held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club (AFP), Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao and Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, Balikatan exercise director of the Philippines and the US, respectively, said that despite the scaling down of the exercises, the scenarios are equally important to them.
Philippine Air Force honor guards and their American Marine counterparts perform the parade of colors at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Balikatan military exercises at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. (FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN)
Nicholson, for one, stressed that humanitarian and disaster relief and counterterrorism are two very important topics that affect all nations in the region. He added that the scaling down doesn’t mean they are disappointed.
“We’re looking forward to a very productive 33rd Balikatan Exercises and this year’s themes were discussed and will touch on the humanitarian and disaster relief and counterterrorism. And so we are looking forward to a great couple of weeks,” Nicholson said.
” I can tell you that marines, sailors, soldiers who are coming to the Philippines and here for the exercises are not disappointed. They are looking forward (to it),” he said.
“The scope of this year’s exercise has changed and HADR and counterterrorism are two critically important areas of concern for both of our nations, for all other nations, so I think there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot of sharing of techniques, tactics and procedures so we’re excited by the work that we’re gonna do,” he added.
Nicholson, in the same press briefing, said that anytime they get a chance to work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a privilege for them.
“So whether it’s during other exercises, whether it’s Balikatan, whether it’s smaller individual efforts, when we get a chance to train with the AFP that’s great for us'” Nicholson said.
Meanwhile, Lactao said this year’s Balikatan Exercise was approved no less than President Duterte himself.
“Through the chief of staff, secretary of national defense and of course, the President. and with the success of the opening ceremony, I could see that it will be a very successful exercise,” Lactao said.
Lactao said this early, preparation for Balikatan 2018 is already being discussed.