Nation


Balikatan exercises begin; military abilities to be tested




Posted on April 16, 2012


THE PHILIPPINES and the United States kick off its 28th Balikatan Exercises today which aims to build up the two nations’ military abilities through traditional training as well as nontraditional aspects such as community assistance.

The Balikatan is a combined joint military exercise conducted under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries. Around 4,500 US troops and 2,300 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel are expected to participate in the exercises.

“The conduct of BK12 affirms a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on mutual assistance as freedom-loving countries committed to the preservation of liberty, democracy and human life,” the AFP said in a press release yesterday.

“The end goal of the exercise is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability in the region.”

A ceremony formally opens the event to be attended by Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Harry K. Thomas, Jr., together with several top security officials and advisers. This will be held at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club at main headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

ASSISTANCE, DISASTER RESPONSE

This year, the joint military exercises will focus on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Training. Two main events will be conducted simultaneously in different parts of the country, including near the disputed region of the Spratly chain of islands.

The first part of the exercises will involve Humanitarian and Civic Assistance projects in Palawan. The Philippine and US armed forces will take part in the construction of classrooms in five barangays as well as conduct medical projects in a number of communities.

Several Civil-Military Operations (CMO) activities have already been ongoing since March 12 prior to the official opening of the Balikatan. Over 22,000 locals from six communities are expected to benefit from the newly constructed schoolbuildings and other facilities built during the exercises.

Meanwhile, cross-training and field training exercises in Luzon and Palawan are on the agenda for the second event.

This activity seeks to investigate recent disasters that struck the country and provide possible solutions for future calamities.

The yearly event, however, has been met with several protests from different groups.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) opposes the combined exercises as well as the increased American military presence.

“The so-called joint military exercises to be carried out this year by the US and Philippine governments are clear acts of power projection and military muscle flexing by the imperialist US government,” the CPP said in a statement.

The Philippines and China are currently in a stalemate over a separate issue at Scarborough Shoal, several miles north of Spratlys. -- MFCR