Balikatan 2016 kicks off in Palawan, Panay
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – This year’s first phase of the US-Phl Balikatan series had its soft opening yesterday with the joint launching of construction and medical engagements in Panay and Palawan.

Capt. Frank Sayson, Philippine-side exercise spokesman, said five different school buildings and scores of local residents in the two islands benefited from yesterday’s shoulder-to-shoulder joint American and Filipino activities.

Balikatan is an annual Philippine-US military bilateral training exercise, a signature element of the alliance focused on a variety of missions including humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement and environmental protection.

This year’s joint military drills will take place in various areas of the country following the exercises’ official opening on April 4 and will run until April 15.

A beachhead landing to capture an “illegally occupied area by foreign forces in Panay” will be conducted by combined Filipino and US troops on the beaches of the capital town of San Jose in Antique.

Antique province in Panay directly faces the island province of Palawan.

“Throughout the joint exercises both forces will be working together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines to meet annual training requirements and enhance techniques, tactics and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces,” Sayson said.

The annual joint military drills will also be conducted in Crow Valley in Tarlac, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Clark Air Field in Pampanga, Subic Bay in Zambales and in Palawan, all aimed at improving the ability of both forces working together.

“One of the main joint operations for this year’s exercise will be the conduct of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response,” Sayson said.

Invited as observers to this yearly joint military event are the military representatives from seven Southeast Asian-member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and regional allies India, Japan, South Korea and Timor-Leste.

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