By Roy Mabasa
United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on Tuesday highlighted the importance of ‘Balikatan’, a joint Philippines – US military exercise, in promoting peace and stability in the region.
“As friends, partners, and allies, we’re not only protecting our own shared security, but also contributing greatly to the stability and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” Ambassador Kim said during the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2019 at Tejeros Hall, Camp Aguinaldo Officers Club.
The US diplomat, who was the ceremony’s guest of honor, also reflected on the significance of Balikatan to the two countries’ bilateral relationship “as a testament to our mutual commitment to the U.S.-Philippines Alliance.”
“As the largest of 281 security cooperation activities agreed upon between the U.S. and the Philippines for this year, Balikatan will strengthen our armed forces, improve our interoperability, and facilitate a robust exchange of ideas and best practices. The relationships, skills, and cooperation that our nations build here will have significant implications for the safety and security of the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific region as a whole,” he added.
Balikatan is a Tagalog phrase that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” is an annual exercise between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines along with participants from the Australian Defense Forces (ADF).
This year’s Balikatan, which will run from April 1 to 12, will be one of the biggest joint exercises in terms of the number of participants. Around 4,000 Filipino and 3,500 American 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.
It will also include the participation of 50 members of the ADF for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and special operations forces training.