MANILA Around 8,000 American and Filipino troops will be participating in this year's "Balikatan" exercises which started Monday and will end on May 18.
Lt. Liezl M. Vidallon, "Balikatan" Combined Joint Information Bureau head, said this figure is composed of 5,000 soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and 3,000 troops from the US Marines, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Force.
Some 20 troops from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and 60 troops from the Australian Defense Force will also participate as observers in the two-week maneuvers.
This year's "Balikatan" is the 34th iteration of the bilateral exercise between the AFP and the United States Pacific Command.
"The 'Balikatan' Exercise is an annual military training that manifest the long-standing relationship between the AFP and the US Armed Forces. We will continue this commitment to strenghten our alliance to learn from both forces and improve our inter-operability. This year's focus is to enhance our capacity for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and counter-terrorism," Philippine "Balikatan" Exercise director Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat said during Monday's opening ceremonies.
"Our nations expects us to be ready when they need us the most. So whether that threat is man-made or natural, we must ready. That is the great essence of 'Balikatan'," US "Balikatan" Exercise director Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson said.
"Balikatan" 2018 activities are focused on addressing traditional and non-traditional security concerns.
The exercise scenarios are based on mutual defense, counter-terrorism, and HADR. Vidallon said "Balikatan 2018" is broken down to three distinct sections.
"First there are individuals participating in a fictional scenario, which will improve the planner's ability to command and control forces from headquarters level. Second, there are the operational events, which includes activities like an amphibious landing, bridging and ccmmunication integration, among others. Third, there is also the civic actions which focuses on building schools as well as medical and dental education, and spiritual enhancement activities in selected areas in Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, and Cabanatuan City. Some of which have already started as early as April," Vidallon added.
Participating AFP naval assets in "Balikatan" 2018 are BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) and BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) along with Filipino aircraft consisting of the KAI FA-50PH jet fighters, SIAI-Marchetti SF-260, W-3A "Sokol" combat utility helicopters, MG-520 attack helicopters and Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft.
Armored personnel carriers like the M-113 and ARVs will be participating in the exercises.
While the US contingent will deploy various Army, Marine, and naval assets like the C-130H C-17 "Globemaster" III, MV-22B "Osprey" and USNS Sacagawea.
In last year's 'Balikatan' exercises, around 2,800 Filipino soldiers, 2,600 Americans and 80 members of the Australian Defence Forces and 20 from the Japan Self Defense Force participated in the series of military maneuvers which started May 8 and ended on the 18th.
Highlights of last year's exercises are the urban search-and-rescue and collapsed structures exercises which was conducted at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.
The former involves rescue methods for individuals trapped in collapsed structures, a common occurrence in massive earthquakes. (With reports from Ericka Cirera, OJT/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency