US-Philippines launch Balikatan war games

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Monday, May 5, 2014


THE United States and Philippines start Monday its annual joint military exercises, days after US President Barack Obama vowed his country's "ironclad" support for Manila amid its ongoing maritime row with China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the annual Balikatan exercises will be a big boost to the military's operational capabilities, especially now that the country is facing several challenges, such as, the threat of terrorism, territorial disputes and issues on climate change.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista attended the opening ceremonies held Monday at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Some 3,000 members of the AFP and 2,500 American troops are joining this year's Balikatan exercises.

The field training exercises will be conducted in several military camps in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga and Cebu.

A humanitarian mission will also be conducted in Tacloban City, one of the areas battered by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November.

Lieutenant Annalea Cazcarro, spokesperson of the Balikatan exercises, said Filipino and US forces have also began conducting community infrastructure projects in Legazpi City in Albay on May 2.

"This is part of Balikatan's Humanitarian Civic Assistance that will focus on revitalizing the interoperability of the Philippines and US militaries through the conduct of disaster rehabilitation and rural development projects," she said.

The said advance activity materialized through the engineering civic-action programs, cooperative health engagements, symposiums and community relation activities.

Exercise Balikatan is an annual bilateral combined exercise initiated by the governments of the Philippines US. It is structured to further develop the AFP's in crisis-action planning, enhancing its ability to effectively conduct counter-terrorism operations and promote interoperability between participating countries. It will also demonstrate cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the US, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, as we continue our commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other. (Sunnex)

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