Exercise directors Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay and Brig. Gen. Chris McPhillips unfurl the Balikatan flag during the opening ceremony of the 35th Balikatan Exercises at Camp Aguinaldo.
Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV
7 countries join Balikatan as observers
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - April 1, 2019 - 5:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Aside from the Philippines, United States and Australia, seven other countries will also be joining the 2019 Balikatan exercise as observers.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the United Kingdom will be sending their respective delegations for the joint military exercises this year.

"During the course of this exercise, particularly the combined live-fire exercise and the amphibious landing operations, representatives from several other countries will also be joining us under the international observers program," Madrigal said.

The Philippines and the US marked the official start of the annual Balikatan exercises on Monday.

The joint military exercises will run from April 1 to 12, when Filipino and American troops will hold counterterrorism training, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations training, aviation operations, bilateral planning, subject matter expert exchanges and humanitarian and civic assistance projects.

The Australian Defense Force will participate in humanitarian and civic assistance projects, as well as special operations forces training.

This year's exercises bring together almost 7,000 troops as 4,000 will participate from the Philippines, 2,500 from the US and 50 from Australia.

"Unique from the previous years, Balikatan 35-2019 have scaled-up exercises gaining more focus on the area of territorial defense and counterterrorism operations," Madrigal said.

AUSTRALIA BALIKATAN UNITED STATES US-PHILIPPINES TIES
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