About 8,000 Filipino and American soldiers will participate in this year’s Balikatan exercise to be held from April 5 to 17.
Balikatan 2013, the 29th of its series, will also involve representatives from other allies in the region.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the exercise would strengthen the ties between the Philippines and the US.
“The exercise is designed to enhance the AFP and the US Military in capability development in the conduct of both traditional military training and civil military projects focusing on reaching out towards communities that need priority,” Burgos said.
“The end goal of these exercises is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability of the region in the near future,” he added.
Exercises will be held in Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley in Tarlac, Subic Bay, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to improve the troops’ interoperability and contingency planning.
Burgos said Balikatan 2013 would focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response to enable the government to develop emergency management mechanisms.
One of the highlights of the activity is the multinational maritime table-top exercise to be held in Camp Aguinaldo.
The table-top exercise aims to map out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters. It also seeks to build confidence among the Philippines, the US and their partner nations.
Balikatan participants will also conduct humanitarian assistance projects in Zambales, the province where the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is located.
China is also claiming ownership over the territory.
The Philippines has protested the intrusion by China, which insisted that it has undisputable sovereignty in the area.
The humanitarian assistance projects would involve infrastructure projects, medical and dental mission and veterinary care.
Balikatan literally means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and reflects the objective of the US and the Philippines to strengthen their relationship. – Alexis Romero