The 30th Balikatan, the joint exercise between Philippine and US troops, will kick off Monday in Camp Aguinaldo, exactly a week after the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Lt. Annaleah Cazcarro, co-director of Balikatan’s Combined Joint Information Bureau, on Sunday said the opening ceremony would be attended by Foreign Affairs Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine exercise director Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye and his US counterpart, Lt. Gen. Terry Robling.
Cazcarro said this year’s exercise will focus on Maritime Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR), and Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA).
She added that the staff planning exercise will be held in Camp Aguinaldo and the Western Command headquarters in Puerto Princesa.
The field training exercise will be in Clark Air Base, Crow Valley and Fort Magsaysay.
As part of the HCA, military Philippine and American medical personnel will offer free medical, dental and veterinary care to communities in Legazpi City. Military engineers will build and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected areas in Bicol.
Balikatan 2014 is designed to help the Philippine military develop crisis-action planning, enhance its ability to conduct counterterrorism operations, and promote interoperability with the US armed forces.
This year’s Balikatan will last until May 16.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL