By Francis Wakefield
The Balikatan (BK) 2018 joint military exercises between the United States and the Philippines open today with US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana leading the ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Lt. Liezl Vidallon, BK2018 public affairs director on the Philippine side, said yesterday that this year’s joint military exercises will not only focus responding to natural calamities but also man-made emergencies.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Emmanuel B. Salamat, AFP Northern Luzon Command (NoLCom) Chief who is also the Exercise Director on the Philippine for this year’s Balikatan, will join high-ranking defense and military officials from both the US and Philippines at the opening rites.
Vidallon said every year both American and Filipino forces are trying to level up the training and this year’s 34th iteration of the two countries’ biggest annual military exercise is no exception.
“For example, the humanitarian assistance and disaster response training last year focused only on natural calamities. This year, we will also train for man-made disasters like, for example, a chemical attack,” she said in broken English.
Vidallon said those who participate in the exercises every year learn new tactics, techniques and procedures and they will apply what they have learned from the previous exercise.
“Mutual defense kasi ang balikatan (and) is more on interoperability of both forces, and then counter terrorism and HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) so scenario based itong Balikatan (the Balikatan is scenario-based),” Vidallon said.
Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) is an annual military exercise between the AFP and the United States Pacific Command.
Balikatan 2018 features humanitarian civic action activities in pre-selected areas in Cagayan and Central Luzon.
On May 9, there will be an Amphibious Landing at the Naval Education Training Command, San Antonio, Zambales while on May 15, 2018, there will be a combined
Arms Live Fire Exercise at Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base, Tarlac, (Crow Valley).
However, the Amphibious Landing and combined Arms Live Fire Exercise between the two countries are not open for media coverage as directed by higher authorities.
The closing ceremony of Balikatan 2018 will be held at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on May 18.