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Philippines-US Balikatan ends

A member of the US Air Force (right) looks at a Philippine flag patch he exchanged with his Filipino counterpart after the closing ceremony of the annual joint Philippines-US Balikatan military exercise at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday. AFP  

MANILA, Philippines - The 33th Joint Phl-US Balikatan military exercises ended yesterday with Filipino and American officials citing cooperation as the only way to hurdle major challenges.

Officials described the disaster-themed joint military drill as a huge success.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Ambassador Sung Kim attributed the completion and the success of this year’s joint exercises to the months of planning, the rigorous training schedules and the hard work of all the participants.

“Months of planning and hard work during this year’s exercises have reinforced long standing ties and strengthen our combined ability to respond to today’s challenges,” Kim said.

Over the last 12 days, Kim said US and Filipino servicemen shared critical skills, undertook planning processes and refined their combined abilities.

“By all accounts Balikatan 33rd series was a tremendous success. Our nations face an increasingly complex and volatile security environment. Now more than ever our armed forces must work together closely,” Kim said as he lauded every participant in this year’s exercises.

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He said that both countries must stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of the alliance of the two states based on shared values and international rules-based order.

Lorenzana introduced three Filipino words in describing the just-concluded Balikatan exercise – three Ks referring to Kaibigan (friend), Kakampi (ally) and Kadamay (collaborator).

“I am so honored to stand before you as we formally end this year’s Balikatan, the most important bilateral exercise that we annually conduct. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the participants, to include the foreign observers, for the success of this year’s joing exercises,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief pointed out that in cooperation and working shoulder-to-shoulder, major challenges could be overcome.

This year’s disaster response-themed drill were held Batanes, Calayan island in Cagayan and in Casiguran, Aurora in Northern Luzon as well as in Panay and Samar in Western and Eastern Visayas.

Anti-terror exercises were also in Ternate, Cavite as part of this year’s event aimed at harnessing the anti-terrorism skills of both Filipino and US military forces.

Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, said that this year’s joint exercises bolstered cooperation among the participants in responding to major disasters.

Año told a story involving a series of races between a tortoise and a hare.

He said that in the first race, the hare was too complacent that before reaching the finish line he rested and was overtaken by the tortoise, which won the race.

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