The ongoing "Balikatan" exercises is a fitting tribute to Filipino and American troops who sacrificed their lives during World War 2, a ranking military official said Thursday.
"This comes as gesture to pay tribute to the heroism and indomitable courage of Filipino and American soldier-patriots as they fought side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, against seemingly insurmountable odds," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Around 4,000 Filipino, 3, 500 American and 50 Australian troops will participate in the annual military maneuvers which formally started April 1 and will end on the 12th.
Acting as observers of the exercises are military personnel from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
"To date, the friendship and the fight continues alongside one another in combating contemporary challenges of terrorism and in capacitating one another towards resilience to natural and human induced disasters among other events of significance covered in the exercise," Arevalo added.
Earlier, AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said the 35th iteration of the "Balikatan" is a testament of the Philippines and US' enduring defense partnership.
"Incidentally, the timing of this year's exercise coincides with our annual observance of the Philippine Veterans Week and Bataan Day which we call the Day of Valor and falls on April 9. Indeed, the memories of World War 2 have molded the US-Philippine relationship, remember the Fall of Bataan and Death March in 1942, the Battle of Corregidor in the same year and the Battle of Leyte Gulf of 1944. It was in these crucial moments of insurmountable odds when our forebears, the forebears of our great nation, our soldiers have truly embodied, understood and experienced the real meaning of 'Balikatan', carrying the load together on our shoulder, however heavy the load, however huge the obstacle, and at whatever the cost," he added.