AFP hopes for ‘Balikatan-like’ exercise with Japanese military

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Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla speaks during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on July 9, 2024. (Photo: Martin Sadongdong / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is hoping to establish a military exercise with the Japan Self-Defense Forces that is as big as the “Balikatan” drills.

Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, AFP spokesperson, disclosed this on Tuesday, July 9, after the Philippines and Japan signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) allowing both countries to send military forces to each other’s territory for joint exercises.

“This is our hope and forward looking, this is what we envision,” Padilla said in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City when asked whether the new defense pact would pave the way for a bilateral exercise as big as Balikatan with their Japanese counterpart.

However, Padilla said that they have yet to determine the specific design for such envisioned exercise between the AFP and JSDF to make it unique from other bilateral exercises the AFP has with other countries.

Balikatan is an annual military exercise between the Philippines and its treaty ally, United States. It is designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust and cooperation between the two forces.

The JSDF had participated in previous iterations of the Balikatan but only in humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) exercises and as observers in select drills only.

With the signing of the RAA, all the restrictions on military exchanges between the AFP and JSDF were lifted.

Manila and Tokyo’s RAA aims to pave the way for joint military exercises and closer defense and security relations. It still requires the concurrence of the Philippine Senate and ratification of Japan’s national legislature, the National Diet.

The RAA with the Philippines is Japan’s first with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).