Balikatan set to start amid sea row
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - This year’s Balikatan military exercises start today.

It comes a week after the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed amid China’s aggressive moves to stake its maritime territorial claims.

Balikatan and EDCA arose from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) requiring the Philippines and the US to maintain and develop capacities to resist armed attacks.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg will attend the opening rites in Camp Aguinaldo   at 9 a.m.

Other key personalities witnessing the event are Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and exercise directors Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye and Lt. Gen. Terry Robling.

Around 3,000 Filipino soldiers and 2,500 American troops are expected to join the exercises in various camps nationwide.

Balikatan 2014, the 30th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise, will end on May 16.

In a statement,  Lt. Annaleah Cazcarro, Balikatan public affairs officer, said this year’s exercise will be on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and humanitarian civic assistance. 

“Balikatan 2014 is structured to further develop the AFP crisis-action planning, enhance its ability to effectively conduct counterterrorism operations, and promote interoperability with the US Armed Forces,” she said.

Staff planning exercises will be held in Camp Aguinaldo and in Armed Forces Western Command in Palawan, the province nearest to the disputed Spratly islands.

Field training exercises will be in Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Crow Valley in Tarlac and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

Absent in this year’s itinerary is the roundtable discussion on disaster preparedness in which China took part last year.

China pulled off a surprise last year when it joined the roundtable discussion involving 11 countries.

Among them were the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, South Korea and the US.

 

AMBASSADOR PHILIP GOLDBERG ANNALEAH CAZCARRO ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES WESTERN COMMAND BALIKATAN CAMP AGUINALDO CLARK AIR BASE CROW VALLEY DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN EMERALDO MAGNAYE AND LT EMMANUEL BAUTISTA
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