Philippines-US Balikatan kicks off today

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The 28th Philippines-United States Balikatan Exercises 2012 (BK12) will formally open today, Monday.

It will be attended by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Jessie D. Dellosa, and several top security officials and advisers with trainings set in Luzon and Palawan.

The joint military exercises by the AFP and United States Armed Forces, which will run until April 27, calls for a more responsive partnership with the community focusing on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HA/DR) Training.


The AFP, in a statement sent to this reporter, said the opening ceremony to be held at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club will feature the unfurling of the Balikatan Flag and messages from US Exercise Director Lieutenant General Duane D Thiessen and RAdm Victor Emmanuel C Martir.

Presentations by Regional Development Councils, AFP’s National Development Support Command, United States Marine Corps Forces Pacific (USMARFORPAC) Experimentation Center, and the Department of Science and Technology will also highlight the event.

Invited to attend the ceremony are Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security; Representative Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security; Representative Al Francis DC Bichara, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Undersecretary Edilberto Adan, Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission.

Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo is also expected to attend, along with Undersecretary Jos Brillantes of the Office of Special Concerns; Assistant Secretary Patricia Ann Paez of the Office for American Affairs; Undersecretary Benito Ramos of National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council; and chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Thomas will be accompanied by Colonel Kevin Clark, Chief of the Joint US Military Assistance Group. The third HA/DR focused Bilateral Exercise (the first in 2008 and the second in 2010) of the Philippine-US Balikatan Exercise 2012 is a combined joint military exercise based on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Although BK12 officially opens Monday, its Civil-Military Operations (CMO) activities, particularly the Engineering Civic Action Program already started last March 12 as military engineers from the AFP and USAF are currently constructing school buildings and facilities in some areas in Palawan.

Over 22 thousand village folks from six Puerto Princesa communities are said to benefit from the BK12 CMOs.

In preparation to the Balikatan proper, the AFP conducted a unilateral table top exercise last March 26 to 29 with the Metro Manila Disaster Coordinating Council, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center, Office of Civil Defense, and Philippine Red Cross and representatives from the local government units of Quezon City.

BK12 is designed to enhance both military forces’ interoperability in the conduct of not only traditional military training but also on non-traditional aspects that reach out to communities in need of urgent assistance.

The activity is conducted every year to serve as a venue for joint and combined training between the Philippine and United States militaries.

The joint military exercise will be conducted simultaneously in different areas in the country.

The first event is Humanitarian and Civic Assistance projects in Palawan, designed to improve the Philippine and US military civic action cooperation, and train civil-military personnel to work together focusing on civic assistance and HA/DR.

The AFP and US personnel will construct classrooms in five barangays and will conduct multiple medical, dental, veterinary civic action projects in identified communities.

The second event, which involves cross-training and field training exercises in mainland Luzon and Palawan province, is designed to improve the interoperability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military.

A Command Post Exercise will also be conducted to test the current HA/DR concept plans of the AFP and other concerned government agencies.

The activity seeks to identify gaps and solutions from previous disaster situations that occurred recently in the Philippines and anticipated future calamities.

It will be participated by the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Office of Civil Defense, Metro Manila Disaster Coordinating Council, AFP, United States Agency for International Development, United States Pacific Command, United Nations Country Team, United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Program, International Federation of the Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross.

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 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.

"The relationship between the US Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to be healthy and vibrant. The cooperation between the two Armed Forces manifests the unswerving dedication and commitment of our security forces towards a more stable and secure Asia-Pacific region. We are looking forward to a successful and fruitful Balikatan 2012 which will help our troops to perform better and further improve their capabilities,” General Jessie Dellosa said. (Ian Ocampo Flora)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 16, 2012.

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