‘Balikatan 2019’ starts

Published April 1, 2019, 1:34 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Francis Wakefield

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim said the yearly Balikatan exercise between Philippine and American troops stands as a testament to the two countries’ mutual commitment to the U.S.-Philippine alliance.

(From left to right) Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, Co-Director of the joint US-Philippine Military Exercise; Undersecretary Cardozo Luna of National Defense; US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim; General Benjamin Madrigal of Philippine Military Chief; and US Marines Brigadier General Christopher McPhillips link arms during the opening ceremony of the Annual Joint Military Exercise Balikatan, April 01, 2019 at the Military Headquarters in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City. (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU / MANILA BULLETIN)
(From left to right) Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, Co-Director of the joint US-Philippine Military Exercise; Undersecretary Cardozo Luna of National Defense; US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim; General Benjamin Madrigal of Philippine Military Chief; and US Marines Brigadier General Christopher McPhillips link arms during the opening ceremony of the Annual Joint Military Exercise Balikatan, April 1, 2019, at the Military Headquarters in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City. (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU / MANILA BULLETIN)

Kim made the remark in a speech during the opening ceremony on Monday to mark the official start of the exercise held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Kim said as ambassador to the Philippines during the past two and a half years, he had the privilege to witness the tremendous hard work of the men and women involved in the important exercise.

“In order to achieve successful results at this scale many dedicated colleagues from the AFP and the U.S. military have invested months of planning. I thank all of you for your commitment to ensure Balikatan 2019 is a huge success for both of our countries,” Kim said.

Kim said each year, the United States and the Philippines conduct Mutual Defense Board, Security Engagement Board to identify security cooperation activities for the following year. He said these annual meeting have ensured continued, robust and mutually beneficial relations between the two militaries.

Also in attendance at the opening ceremony were Philippine Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna who represented Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, Jr.

Philippine and U.S. organizers said about 4,000 Philippine troops, 3,500 U.S. soldiers and 50 Australian Defence Force members will participate in the exercise.

During Balikatan, which will run from April 1-12, Philippine and U.S. forces will conduct counterterrorism training, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations training, aviation operations, bilateral planning, subject matter expert exchanges, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects throughout Luzon.

The exercise also includes the participation of the Australian Defence Force for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and special operations forces training.

 
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