Balikatan 2012 includes participants from Asean, other partner nations
MANILA, Philippines—For the first time since it started, this year’s Balikatan exercises will include multilateral engagement that includes humanitarian assistance, disaster response and civic action projects, among others, the United States Embassy in Manila announced Wednesday.
The Balikatan, a joint training exercise by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Armed Forces, will include additional 20 participants from the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) and 15 colleagues from partner nations that have plans to contribute to its command post exercise, a statement from the US Embassy said.
Now on the 28th of its series, and the third humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR)-focused bilateral exercise (first in 2008 and second in 2010), the Balikatan exercises will be held on April 16-27.
“I’m delighted to announce the United States’ participation in the 28th exercise of Balikatan. The longevity of this bilateral exercise speaks to the health of our alliance as we stand shoulder-to-shoulder next to our Philippine allies. This exercise will build meaningful relationships not only between our militaries, but also among communities and first responders,” said US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. in a statement.
The Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, is a regularly scheduled multiservice combined exercise hosted annually by the Philippines, based on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. Aside from traditional military training, the Balikatan 2012 also tackles non-traditional aspects that reach out communities “in need of urgent assistance.”
Approximately 4,500 US personnel and 2,300 personnel from the AFP are planned to participate in the exercise. In addition, 385 local health professionals will support the human and civic assistance activities.
The AFP said this year’s Balikatan will be conducted simultaneously in different areas in the country.
The first event, which focused on humanitarian and civic assistance projects in Palawan, is 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. US and Filipino troops will construct classrooms in five barangays and will conduct multiple medical, dental and veterinary civic action projects in selected 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 both the US and Philippine 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 in 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 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,” AFP Chief Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa said.
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