Balikatan a ‘perfect training ground’ for PH’s new defense concept

ALLIANCE Philippine military and United States officials lead the opening of the ceremony of this year’s “Balikatan” exercises at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday. Shown from left are Philippine exercise director Maj. Gen Marvin Licudine, AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., US Embassy Charge d’affaires Robert Ewing, Marine Maj. Gen. Noel Beleran and US exercise director Lt. Gen. William Jurney. —LYN RILLON

ALLIANCE Philippine military and United States officials lead the opening of the ceremony of this year’s “Balikatan” exercises at Camp Aguinaldo on April 22. LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines — The ongoing Balikatan war games is a “perfect training ground” for the government’s new archipelagic defense paradigm made in view of mounting tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a United States marine general said on Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Michael Cederholm, commanding general of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force, said the war games between Manila and Washington will contribute with the Department of National Defense’s Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept.

READ: Military begins implementation of new archipelagic defense strategy

“This is the perfect training ground,” Cederholm said of Balikatan in a media conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Cederholm noted that the drills focus on integrated air missile defense, cyber defense, and other drills to serve as a deterrent against external threats.

Defensive in nature

“We’re not looking for a fight; everything we’re doing is defensive in nature,” Cederholm said.

Balikatan exercises began on April 22 and continues until May 10.

The highlights of the drills is the sinking of a “made in China” mock enemy ship off Ilocos Norte, a coastal province near Taiwan, or the self-ruled island seen by Beijing as a renegade province subject to reunification.

READ: ‘Made in China’ ship as mock target in Balikatan unintentional—PH Navy

Both countries will also study the logistics of the Typhon mid-range capability missile system, the United States’ newest ground-based missile, deployed in Luzon as part of the drills.

The Philippines, the United States, and France, will also conduct their patrols in the WPS for the first time.

The rotation and reprovision mission in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal where BRP Sierra Madre is grounded becomes the flashpoint of tension between Manila and Beijing.

In March 23, the Chinese coast guard’s water cannon assault against resupply mission in BRP Sierra Madre caused injuries to three Navy personnel in what the Philippine military deem to be the worst escalation of the incident in the western section of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Beijing asserts sovereignty in the entire South China Sea, including most of the West Philippine Sea, but their claims have been effectively invalidated by the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that stemmed from a case filed by Manila in 2013.