PH, US push to protect ‘mutual interests’ as ‘Balikatan’ ends
MANILA, Philippines — As the Balikatan exercises for 2012 drew to a close Friday, the Philippines and the US underscored the need to support each other “in areas of common concern and mutual interest” and “with the assurance of the mutual defense treaty”.
“As we bring our shared history of cooperation into the future, it is paramount that we agree on synchronizing our structured responses, protocols and mechanisms to scenarios and situations in areas of common concern and mutual interest,” General Jesse Dellosa, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, said in ceremonies at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
US Ambassador Harry Thomas in his speech to the American and Filipino troops who participated in the annual event said, “We must conduct all of our activities with respect, with alignment with your priorities, [and] with assurance of our mutual defense treaty.”
This year’s Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises were held under the shadow of an ongoing dispute between the Philippines and China over ownership of the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, with Beijing warning Manila that the conflict may escalate into war if it continues to “internationalize” the situation.
The Philippines, considered a long-time ally of the US, has urged a world court to intervene in the conflict.
Dellosa said that the exercise “has not only improved our capacity to do things together but has also promoted good will with the people.”
“I stand before you with pride, as I thank all the participants from the Philippines and the US sides for the successful conclusion of this year’s Balikatan,” Dellosa said in his speech.
Lieutenant General Duane Theissen, Commander of the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said that it was an honor for the American troops to be in the Philippines for the exercises.
“It’s an honor for all of the US forces, all of the members of the Pacific Command, to be with you here in the Philippines today for this exercise and for all of our engagements that we do together,” Thiessen said in his speech.
“It has been my privilege to work hand-in-hand and cooperate with all of [the troops and organizers] as we have gone through this exercise,” he said.
He described the Balikatan exercises as an “amazing success.”
He also praised the “leadership and the vision of the government of the Philippines” and “the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
“I have been very, very impressed,” Thiessen said.
He complemented the soldiers for their hard work and the Filipinos for being “gracious hosts.”
Before he delivered his speech, Thomas asked all the American troops present to stand and to give thanks to the Filipino troops.
“Thank you for letting us conduct this wonderful 28th Balikatan Exercise, we appreciate being in your country, we’ll always treat you with the respect you deserve.”
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