08 April 2016

Filipino soldier dies in Balikatan accident

A Philippine air force paratrooper who parachuted from a C130 plane in an exercise with U.S. forces died Thursday, April 7. after a wind gust blew him out to sea instead of an airport drop zone, officials said.

The Filipino paratrooper from a special air force operations unit was rescued 15 minutes after the accident at the Subic Bay free port in Zambales, but he died later in a hospital, Philippine army spokesman Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson said.

Heavy machinery and military vehicles are parked at the Subic Bay International Airport after arriving
from the United States, April 4. The equipment will be used for Balikatan 2016, an inter-operability
exercise between the Philippines and US, that will be held on April 4-15. (Jonas Reyes)

About 3,500 Filipino troops and 5,000 American military personnel are participating in the Balikatan or shoulder-to-shoulder combat exercises that started Monday, April 4. The 11-day maneuvers aim to prepare U.S. and Philippine troops to quickly respond to a range of potential crises, including in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will fly to the Philippines next week to witness some of the maneuvers, underscoring the importance Washington puts on the joint combat drills that have been staged 32 times by the treaty allies.

Accident prevention is part of the meticulous planning for the joint exercises by both militaries, but mishaps have happened. In 2000, a Filipino marine was ran over by an amphibious vehicle and died during a beach landing exercise in Cavite province south of Manila. (AP)