The Philippines has invited US forces to train alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the 33rd iteration of the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games on May 8 to 19 at multiple locations in Luzon and the Visayas region.
Filipino and American troops will kick off Exercise Balikatan 33-2017 through community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte and Samar.
They will work together to renovate five schools and conduct community medical engagements with local residents in the opening days of the 12-day military exercises.
Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects began mid-April.
Balikatan 33-2017 incorporates high-value training events designed to enhance capabilities of both Philippine and US armed forces.
The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in order to improve response effectiveness and speed during natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.
“Balikatan is designed to meet current challenges facing the Philippines,” Molly Koscina, US Embassy press attaché, said.
“Along with preparing the US forces’ and [the Armed Forces of the Philippines’]ability to respond to natural disasters and deliver humanitarian aid, Balikatan will also increase our militaries’ counter-terrorism capabilities,” she added.
This year’s exercises will have Philippine and US forces partnering to improve their counter-terrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work toward eradication of global terror networks.
During the Balikatan, the two countries will conduct operational and counter-terrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), maritime interdiction and amphibious raids.
In this year’s Balikatan, the Philippines and the United States will continue to collaborate with regional partner nations.
Forces from Australia and Japan will participate in all major training events, and the AFP has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the International Observers Program.
JAIME R. PILAPIL