The annual “Balikatan” exercises are a testament to the enduring commitment of American and Filipino defense partnership.
“The 35th iteration of the annual (‘Balikatan’) military exercise is a testament of our enduring commitment to our defense partnership. Every year when our troops train together and hurdle developed scenarios, in a way we actually relive the times when Filipinos and American soldiers fought side by side in defense of peace, freedom and democracy,” Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff, Gen.
Benjamin Madrigal said during the opening ceremony of the annual military maneuvers held at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.
Around 4,000 Filipinos, 3,500 American and 50 Australian troops will participate in the military maneuvers which formally started April 1 and will end on April 12.
Acting as observers in the exercises are military personnel from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“Incidentally, the timing of this year’s exercise coincides with our annual observance of the Philippine Veterans Week and Bataan Day which we call the Day of Valor and falls on April 9.
Indeed, the memories of World War II have molded the US-Philippine relationship, remember the Fall of Bataan and Death March in 1942, the Battle of Corregidor in the same year and the Battle of Leyte Gulf of 1944,” the AFP chief said.
He added that during these times, both American and Filipino forces truly embodied, understood and experienced the real meaning of ‘Balikatan’, which is “carrying the load together on our shoulder, however heavy the load, however huge the obstacle, and whatever the cost”.
Also, “Balikatan” exercises, which are now on its 35th iteration, aims to enhance the inter-operability of Philippines and United States Forces in joint and combined operations aside from projecting readiness to combat any security threats.
“It (‘Balikatan’) serves as a platform when we could exchange our best practices in various military operations, a venue where we could validate our defense plans and an opportunity where we could amplify our alliances with other participating countries.
All of us understand how threats on security constantly evolve, including the non-traditional security challenges at present. As we have this year’s Balikatan, we will shoulder the load together to prepare for these scenarios and should a crisis or national disaster occur in the future we will be ready,” Madrigal said.
Meanwhile, Department of National Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna said the annual “Balikatan” exercise has been a strong foundation of the security alliance and partnership between Manila and Washington.
“The geopolitics and security dynamics within the Indo-Pacific regions for our both our two countries are geographically located are evolving so fast, we need to work together more to cope with these challenges, otherwise our past efforts and sacrifices in ensuring peace and stability for the past several decades will lose their meaning and significance.
This is the best time for us, the Filipino and American peoples to stay together and work hand in hand, shoulder-to-shoulder to review our commitment for peace and posterity in the region,” he added.
“This ‘Balikatan’ 2019 is truly a remarkable and historic one as no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has affirmed the Philippines and American friendship (and) alliance will grow further into higher heights as the United States Government (honored) its promise to return to the Philippines the Balangiga Bells in December of last year,” the DND official said.
As this develops, US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, said the “Balikatan” exercise is by no means a small undertaking.
“As our previous speakers mentioned, this is no small undertaking. In order to achieve successful results at this scale many dedicated colleagues from the AFP and the US military have invested months of planning, I thank all of you for your commitment to ensure ‘Balikatan’ 2019 is a huge success for both of our countries,” he added.
Participating forces will spend the next two weeks working shoulder-to-shoulder, honing their skills in key areas such as counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.