PH, US troops train for relief operations
CASIGURAN, Aurora—Filipino and American troops on Monday simulated relief operations in the wake of a supertyphoon scenario, highlighting the focus of this year’s Balikatan exercises on disaster response as the usual territorial defense maneuvers took a back seat.
The shift was on orders of President Duterte, who earlier directed the scrapping of the Balikatan exercises but later relented.
The Balikatan is part of a Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries signed in 1951.
“The military is always dictated by the guidance of political leaders and we comply with that,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said on the sidelines of the event.
This year’s Balikatan involved about 5,000 troops (2,800 Filipino and 2,600 American), fewer than some 9,000 American and Filipino soldiers who took part in exercises last year.
“It turned out this Balikatan is a little smaller, 2/3 of size compared to last year … but there is no policy that says that it will be small,” said Brig. Gen. John Jansen, commander of US Joint Task Force.
Barangay Dibacong in Casiguran, the venue of the main event for the joint drills, was supposedly hit by a supertyphoon and there was no other way to bring relief to residents but by air and sea.
The Philippine Navy’s biggest ship, the BRP Tarlac, was used as a supply vessel and ferried troops for the event dubbed “Civil Military Activities from the Sea.” The Philippines also used its Huey helicopters.
The US forces used V-22 Osprey and UH-60 Black Hawk choppers for the insertion of troops and casualty evacuation. They also used the USNS Sacagaewa, a cargo ship, to ferry personnel and relief supplies.
The troops also sponsored a medical and dental mission, and taught residents expedient water collection and purification, health and safety management and other topics related to calamities./rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.