Balikatan 2018 to focus on counterterrorism, mutual defense
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez delivers the opening remarks during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Balikatan exercises at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City
Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

Balikatan 2018 to focus on counterterrorism, mutual defense

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 7, 2018 - 3:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — The scenarios for this year's joint military exercises between Filipino and American troops will be based on mutual defense and counterterrorism.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces have officially opened the annual Balikatan Exercises on Monday, which will run until May 18.

Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, Philippines exercise director, noted that the annual joint military training manifests the longstanding relationship between Filipino and American forces.

"We will continue this commitment to strengthen our alliance to learn from both forces and improve our interoperability. This year’s focus is to enhance our capacity for humanitarian assistance and disaster response and counterterrorism," Salamat said during the opening ceremony.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana noted that last year's exercises focused on disaster response.

"This year, Balikatan will focus on interoperability training to address traditional and non-traditional security concerns. Through this exercise, we hope to improve our counterterrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work towards the eradication of global terror networks," Lorenzana said in a speech.

Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, US exercise director, noted that both Philippines and US forces should be ready to respond to security threats, which is the essence of the military exercises.

Nicholson added that the joint exercises reaffirms the two countries' commitment to their 70-year alliance.

"Our nations expect us to be ready when they need us the most. So whether that threat is man-made or natural, we must be ready. That is the great essence of Balikatan," Nicholson said.

About 5,000 Filipino soldiers, marines, airmen and soldiers will be joining the exercises while 3,000 American marines, army, navy, air force and special operations forces will be participating.

The Australian Defense Force and Japan Self-Defense Force will also be joining Balikatan as observers.

RELATED: Australia, Japan to join Philippines-US joint exercises

This year's exercises would be divided into three sections—command post exercises where individuals will participate in a fictional scenario testing their ability to command and control forces from a headquarters level; operational events such as amphibious landing, bridging and communication integration; and civic actions including building schools and medical and dental education in selected areas.

The Philippine Navy's assets BRP Ramin Alcaraz and BRP Davao Del Sur will be utilized in the activities. From the Air Force, SF260, MG250, FA50, Sokol Choppers and C130 aircraft will be used.

Armored personnel carriers, including the army's M113 and ARV, will also be used in the training.

Meanwhile, the US forces will use their air, marine, army and naval assets such as the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globe Master III, MV-22B Ospreys and the USNS Sacagawea.

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