The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) hosted two high-ranking defense and military officials from the United States and United Kingdom on Friday, Feb. 3, as Manila seeks to forge closer ties with its allied nations so it can conduct more quality trainings for its soldiers amid the evolving security concerns in the region.
Lt. Gen. George W. Smith Jr., commanding general of the US Marine Expeditionary Force, paid a courtesy visit at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. He was welcomed by Lt. Gen. Arthur M. Cordura, AFP Vice Chief of Staff.
According to the AFP, Smith was in the country to discuss the preparations for the 38th iteration of the Balikatan Exercise in April.
Balikatan, which translates to "shoulder to shoulder," is the biggest Philippine-led bilateral exercise of the AFP with the US Armed Forces. Last year, around 8,900 servicemen joined the "largest-participated" iteration of the Balikatan Exercise.
His visit came just a day after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III held bilateral talks with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. last Feb. 2 to discuss the increase of military trainings between the two nations. There are around 500 military trainings and capacity-building activities between the Philippines and US every year.
The Philippines and US have also agreed to conduct joint maritime patrol operations in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to resist China's aggression in the area.
Meanwhile, UK Defense Attaché to the Philippines Group Captain Beatrix VH Walcot visited the headquarters of the Philippine Army (PA) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. She was welcomed by Army Vice Commander Brig. Gen. Steve D. Crespillo.
Crespillo, who represented Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., and Walcot discussed bolstering areas of collaboration in the land domain such as military training and education, said Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad.
It can be recalled that a team of Philippine Army Scout Rangers received a silver medal citation at the pre-pandemic Exercise Cambrian Patrol (Ex CP) held in Wales, United Kingdom in 2019.
Ex CP, considered as the British Army’s premier patrolling event, involves mission-focused and scenario-based exercises geared at enhancing the operational capabilities of participating units.