Sunday, March 31, 2019

US-PH ‘Balikatan’ opens today

From Tempo (Mar 31, 2019): US-PH ‘Balikatan’ opens today

“Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) – the biggest annual bilateral military exercise between the United States and the Philippines – formally opens today in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim is the guest of honor and speaker in the opening ceremony.

High-ranking officials from the Philippines and US are expected to attend the event at the Tejeros Hall, AFP Commissioned Officers Club, among them Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna, representing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr.

PH and US organizers said about 4,000 Philippine troops, 3,500 US soldiers, and 50 Australian Defense Force members will participate in the exercise that will end on April 12.

Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay, AFP Southern Luzon Command chief, is the exercise director for the Philippine side while Brig. Gen. Chris McPhillips, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, is his counterpart in the US side.

This year’s Balikatan is the 35th iteration of the annual military drill. The annual military drill between the Philippines and the United States also involves Australia.

Throughout Balikatan, the AFP, US Armed Forces, and ADF will carry out information exchanges and live training events. These are aimed at enhancing the militaries’ interoperability during the planning and execution of joint operations to advance security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

In addition, US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response.

All events will take place in Luzon, Palawan, and Mindoro.

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