PH, US troops build schools ahead of ‘Balikatan’

Filipino and American soldiers started the construction of buildings in four schools in Luzon as part of this year’s “Balikatan” exercises.

In a statement Tuesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Jorry Baclor, said groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Monday at Masi Elementary School in Rizal, Cagayan; Taggat Sur Elementary School and Pinas Elementary School, both in Claveria, Cagayan; and San Francisco Elementary School in Alicia, Isabela.

“The activity is undertaken by engineering units and personnel from both the AFP and US Armed Forces to improve the infrastructure of local communities,” Baclor said.

He added that the construction of buildings in these schools is part of the Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) which is being conducted before the official opening of the “Balikatan” exercises on March 28.

“Balikatan” is an annual military exercise between the AFP and the US Armed Forces that is focused on strengthening the interoperability of both forces for mutual defense, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response.

Aside from the ENCAP, both forces will also participate in the joint training, live-fire exercise, information exchange, and other exercises from March 28 to April 8.

Centino visits PAF HQ

As this developed, AFP chief Gen. Andres C. Centino on Tuesday made his first official visit to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) headquarters in Pasay City.

Centino was rendered military honors at the Villamor Air Base, where he was received by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas. He was also conferred with the Honorary Expert Missile System Officer Badge.

During his visit, Centino met with other PAF general officers in a command briefing where he was presented with modernization updates and priority projects of the Air Force.

These include the acquisition of mobility support, integrated air defense, integrated command and control, communications, and computer systems.

“We are improving as an Air Force and as an Armed Forces. I am very much optimistic and upbeat on how the future looks. It is really jointness that is the key to becoming a stronger military force,” said Centino.

On the same day, Centino officially opened the PAF-Philippine Army Interoperability Exercise 01-2022 at the PAF Gymnasium.

“It is a must for us to ensure jointness and interoperability within our Major Services. We can always have a strong Army, Air Force, and Navy, but we can have a stronger Armed Forces if we have jointness in our operations. We just need to coordinate, cooperate and plan together to better perform our mission as one Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

The exercise is the first in its kind that seeks to improve the Air Force and Army’s interoperability during joint operations through a series of drills and subject matter expert exchanges.

Centino also met with PAF personnel in a traditional talk to troops.

He took the opportunity to appreciate their humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts (HADR) after the devastation of Typhoon Odette.

He reminded the troops to remain professional and nonpartisan as the national and local elections approach.

“Whether you like it or not, there will be a new administration, but this is no cause for worry. What matters most is we have very professional armed forces; a professional group of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who continue to work in a disciplined and professional manner whoever is leading our country,” Centino said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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