American, Filipino soldiers to hold joint exercises
Filipino and American troops will hold joint training exercises during the 33rd iteration of Balikatan 33-2017 from May 8 to 19 at multiple locations in Luzon and the Visayas region.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Embassy in Manila said the Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) would kick off through community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte and Samar provinces, where forces from the Philippines and the United States would renovate five schools.
They will also conduct community medical engagements with local residents in the opening days of the 12-day military training exercise.
Balikatan 33-2017 includes high-value training events designed to enhance the capabilities of both AFP and US armed forces.
The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations to improve response effectiveness and speed in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.
“Balikatan is designed to meet current challenges facing the Philippines,” said Molly Koscina, US Embassy press attache.
“Along with preparing the US forces’ and AFP’s ability to respond to natural disasters and deliver humanitarian aid, Balikatan will also increase our militaries’ counterterrorism capabilities,” she said.
During Balikatan, US and Philippine forces will conduct operational and counterterrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, counterimprovised explosive devices, maritime interdiction against piracy and amphibious raids.
Maj. Celeste Frank Sayson, exercise directorate headquarters of the Public Information Office, said the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board have included President Duterte’s guidance for this year’s exercise. The President has advised the AFP to conduct light exercises and to stay away from disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Sayson said the series of events manifested the exercise’s refocus on humanitarian civil assistance, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and counterterrorism. The entire exercise follows a single-scenario concept where a super typhoon devastates areas along its route in the areas of Central Command, National Capital Region and Northern Luzon.
This year’s exercise will have AFP and US forces partnering to improve their counterterrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work toward the eradication of global terror networks.
Forces from Australia and Japan will participate in all major training events./rga
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