Filipino and American troops are now preparing for the 32nd iteration of the annual US-PH Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercise to be held in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Panay, and Palawan.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said militaries from 11 other countries – Japan, India, South Korea, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste – have been invited to observe this year’s Balikatan exercises (BK 16).
Filipino troops commenced preparatory works for the conduct of engineering activities and medical assistance programs in Panay and Palawan leading up to information exchanges and live training events over a 12-day period.
In the following weeks, US forces will join their Filipino counterparts as they work shoulder-to-shoulder during these engagements and throughout the exercise.
Balikatan is an annual Philippines-US military bilateral training focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection.
Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – Western Command (Wescom), Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), and Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) – as well as in other major Philippine military facilities such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, and Subic Bay to improve their ability to work together, partnering in capabilities and plan follow-on operations.
One of the main operations for this year’s exercise will be the implementation of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response.
Forces from the Philippines, United States, and Australia will also participate in all major exercise events, including the simulation supported event (SSE), operational event (OE), and humanitarian civic assistance (HCA). (Elena L. Aben, Manila Bulletin)
Amphibious assault vehicles launch from the amphibious transport dock Green Bay during Balikatan 2015 in Subic Bay. (MC3 Edward Guttierrez III/Navy)