35th Balikatan comes to a close

Published April 12, 2019, 4:46 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Francis Wakefield 

A complete success.

This was declared by Philippine and United States officials at the close of the 35th iteration of the PH-U.S. Balikatan Exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Friday, April 12.

In a speech by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that was read by Defense Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna, he said it was through Balikatan that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States Indo-Pacific Command (US Indo Pacom) strengthen their interoperability for the defense of our country and for the larger regional security environment.


“Balikatan is a demonstration of our nations’ commitment to contribute to the peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region in the face of evolving regional security challenges.

Being one of the premier military exercises in the region, we endeavor to sustain and expand our Balikatan through wider engagement and networking with our allies in the region,” Luna, quoting Lorenzana, said before more than a hundred Philippine and U.S. troops present in the closing ceremony held at at the Tejeros Hall, AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“Balikatan has always been an opportunity for our country to demonstrate our commitment to constantly elevate the capability and assets of our Armed Forces. And through your efforts, we have realized this,” he added.

Aside from Luna, also present were US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim, AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, Philippines Exercise Director Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Eric M. Smith, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Exercise Director Brig. Gen. Chris Mc. Philips.

Lorenzana congratulated  Madrigal and Gapay for their able leadership in steering the Philippine contingent and the whole of Balikatan 2019 towards a success.

“This year, we have contingents and observers from other foreign allies joining in our resolution to maintain the stability in the larger Indo-Asia-Pacific Region,” Lorenzana said.

“As we mark the conclusion of this year’s exercise, I am certain that the Armed Forces of our nations are now imbued with the stronger resolve to counter terrorism and to respond to the need for a stronger humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” he added.

Lorenzana said that, as they move forward, it was their hope that the Philippines and the United States, together with their friends and allies in the region, will continue to work towards mutual peace and stability.

“Shoulder-to-Shoulder, we will continue to stand together to defend our values, for our prosperity and of the generations to come.

“To our American allies, represented today by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Sung Y. Kim and U.S. Exercise Director Brig. Gen. Chris McPhillips. We are incessantly grateful to your dedication to this joint endeavor and to our friendship. Indeed, the Balikatan is not just a fulfillment of our obligations to solidify and strengthen the friendship of our nations.”

“The same gratitude goes to the Australian contingent and to other foreign observers of this year’s Balikatan. Your support has certainly led us to the success and to the growing multilateralization of this exercise,” he added.

For his part, Madrigal said this year’s activity highlighted the importance of mutual cooperation and collaboration.

“In today’s complex global security environment, it is imperative that we continue to strengthen cooperation with allies and partners in order to expand and adapt these relationships in dealing with new challenges and threats such as terrorism, transnational crimes, cyber and maritime security concerns, as well as natural and man-made disasters that transcend borders and boundaries,” Madrigal said.

“Truly, the annual Balikatan Exercises has been one of our proactive measures to test strategies for interoperability and initiative innovations, particularly in combined operations. This has also bolstered the strong bond between our countries, as we plan, work and operate side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder in our joint undertakings to continuously capacitate and empower our Armed Forces as we fulfill our respective responsibilities in maintaining peace and stability in the region,” he added.

Madrigal, in his speech, reiterated the astounding success of this year’s Balikatan Exercise with the primary goals and purpose were attained.

“We have accomplished all the four major events on time and on target as earlier reported and highlighted by our exercise directors. Let us, therefore, give ourselves a big round of applause for a job well done,” he said.

Madrigal also highlighted the participation of international observers from Jaoan, Canada, South Korea, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

“We hope that through the international observers program, you were able to gain insights on interoperability and combined operations, as well as to have meaningful exchange of ideas and best practices which will eventually benefit our respective Armed Forces. We look forward to your continued support and participation in our similar future endeavors,” he added.