Philippine, US militaries work shoulder-to-shoulder
CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines -- Hundreds were in attendance at the opening ceremony marking the official start of Exercise Balikatan 2013 April 5 at the Commissioned Officers’ Club at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Republic of the Philippines.
Balikatan, which is a Filipino term meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is in its 29th iteration and provides an ideal setting for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military forces to demonstrate their combined capabilities through a range of military operations.
“The Philippines and U.S. partnership is an example of a rich history of friendship,” said Philippine Army Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the AFP chief of staff. “The Philippines and the U.S. armed forces are working shoulder-to-shoulder for stability and security of the region.”
As with previous Balikatan exercises, the focus this year is bilateral training between Philippine and U.S. service members to improve interoperability, strengthen military-to-military relations, and advance regional security through shared cooperation.
BK13 consists of three simultaneous events: a series of humanitarian civic assistance projects, a bilateral scenario-based command post exercise that includes joint force planning and assistance required for a typhoon-based disaster relief scenario, and bilateral field training exercises.
“Balikatan is an exercise focused on the Philippine and U.S. militaries working together to improve our ability to respond to crises,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Richard L. Simcock II, the exercise deputy director. “This response spans the range of military operations from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief all the way up to conventional combat.”
Simcock also added that because this region is prone to natural disasters — tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes and other crises such as pandemics — the interoperability of Philippine and U.S. forces will not only benefit both countries, but will further contribute to the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
Echoing this sentiment during the opening ceremony was U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr., who emphasized that the military cooperation between both countries has strengthened over the years, most recently in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo in December 2012.
“Within seven hours of the request from the Philippine government to assist with the typhoon relief, the first U.S. aircraft arrived here in Manila to begin rescue operations,” said Thomas, who affirmed the U.S. commitment to its mutual defense treaty ally.
“The Balikatan exercises are powerful and living symbols of the longstanding security relationship between the Philippines and the U.S.,” said Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario. “These exercises breathe life and meaning into our obligations as treaty partners.”
More than 8,000 Philippine and U.S. service members are participating in this year’s exercise, in addition to representatives from several regional partners who are attending Balikatan to advance common security interests in the region. The exercise is scheduled to conclude April 17.