Wargames to boost readiness vs threats

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AGAINST a backdrop of China’s frenzied reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines and the United States begin on Monday this year’s Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises that Malacañang said will boost both countries’ readiness to respond to threats in the region.

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In an interview over government-owned Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while the wargames are not directly aimed against China, these are meant to maintain a high level of preparedness for any contingency.

Balikatan 2015 is twice as big as last year’s and involves non-military activities such as construction of school buildings and roadways in places where the wargames will be held.

“Patuloy ang masinsing pakikipag-ugnayan ng Sandatahang Lakas ng dalawang bansa upang matiyak ang mataas na antas ng kahandaang pairalin ang katahimikan at estabilidad ng seguridad sa bahaging ito ng rehiyong Asya Pasipiko. Ang kahandaan sa paglulunsad ng agarang pagtugon sa mga krisis bunsod ng mga kalamidad ay isa ring mahalagang aspeto ng kooperasyon [The militaries of both countries continue to coordinate to ensure a high level of preparedness for peace and stability in the region. This readiness to respond to any crisis or calamity is one of the aspects of this cooperation],” Coloma said.

The 10-day drills, he added, will ensure vigilance against any crisis or calamity that may endanger the people.

This year’s wargames involve 6,656 US soldiers, 5,023 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 61 soldiers from the Australian Defense Forces (ADF). At least 91 aircraft will be used.

Some of the military exercises will be held on the central island of Palawan, which is near disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, refused to discuss why the maritime activities will be held close to a maritime flashpoint. But he said part of it was the AFP’s preparation to defend the country from “any external armed aggression.”

He emphasized though that the increase in the number of participants has nothing to do with China’s saber-rattling.

The doubling of the size of the annual war games, according to Cabunoc, is an indication that the commitment of both countries to help each other has leveled up.

“Yung pagtutulungan ng bawat bansa, mga participants [ay]upang ma-improve ang ating capabilities sa military to military engagements and non-military activities at kasama na dyan yung mga training. Example, meron tayong more or less 16 activities na mga activities na gagawin sa iba’t ibang lugar [The cooperation between the two countries, among the participants, aims to improve capabilities in military-to-military engagements and non-military activities, and those include training. For example, we have lined up at least 16 activities in various places],” he said.

To coincide with the Balikatan opening, according to Cabunoc, AFP chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. will be presenting photos of structures constructed by China in the contested waterway.

“Ipapakita natin na dapat may concrete actions tayong gagawin, dapat may concrete actions din tayong gagawin at ipaalam natin sa boung mundo na hindi lamang ito concern ng mga Pilipino, concern ito ng lahat na gumagamit dyan sa, yun mga sea lanes, maapektuhan lahat, kasi we don’t really know ano ang next step nya [China] once they have taken these islets, reefs [We will show to the world that these (China’s sea reclamations are) not just a concern of Filipinos but of everyone who uses the sea lanes because we don’t really know what step China will take once they have taken these islets and reefs],” he pointed out.

The AFP, Cabunoc said, seeks to widen awareness on implications of Chinese incursions that may cause military confrontation.

The wargames will include live fire drills, field training and air and naval exercises that aim to improve tactics, techniques, procedures and inter-operability of Philippine and American troops; and reinforce relations.

The participants will also conduct seminars for “first responders” in times of disasters while others will hold community health-related training.

The Department of National Defense will assess seaports and airports in the provinces of Capiz, Aklan and Iloilo that were hit by Typhoon Yolanda as part of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief program.

But the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the Balikatan exercises will not help the Philippines against the expansionist activities of China in the region.

“The joint exercises are intended to boost US power projection in the region and increase US involvement in the Philippines’ internal affairs. It is not true that the US is out to protect us against China’s incursions and reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea. The US has repeatedly said that it that does not take sides in the maritime dispute,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

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9 Comments

  1. China will prevail you will see. if the US really wants to stop china in their reclamation and illegal structures then the US would have already deployed the US Navy 7th fleet in the WPS and blockaded all routes for the construction of the reclamation by China. Besides China has no intention of invading the major islands of the Philippines. she just want complete military control of the EEZs and take all the resources there like oil, gas and fisheries. and the refurbished AFP can’t do anything. lol

    • sonny dela cruz on

      US 7th fleet is already on alert in the region. It is already in their position waiting for action when the Chinese start building MISSILE SITES in the reclaimed islets. US will never allowed them to have them in the region.

  2. Crisostomo Ibarra on

    War Games are good, it helps us understand the maneuvers of our allies. However, we (the Filipino nation) should start building our Arm forces and make an effort to be a respectful force in Asia.

    A perfect example is Israel, small nation but they stand their ground. We should at least make an attempt to be self reliant in defending our territories.

  3. yes while the war games continue and GROW bigger. China is not deterred and keepS on building illegal structures in the WPS. The US is tied up in the middle east and Ukraine. It is over stretched. I don’t think America can stop the Chinese from expanding its military might in the South China seas. Plus with the creation of AIIB with the Europeans and other US allies joining this economic club, China’s influence is even getting stronger in the world. The Philippines is too dependent to the US especially in defense. its a wrong route and concept. its like it never became independent.

    • Beg to disagree. US can stop China I including Russia. US has the fire power that you can’t imagine. US is still our natural ally and it’s not just US there are those countries that are close allies of the US like the ANSUS, Japan and South Korea. If we can get all to our sides I believe China will back down. Otherwise they’ll be cut into pieces. I am sure there are many Chinese that are against with their government policies. The Taiwanese are against them along with all the ASEAN that are in their borders. The creation of AIIB is desperate for China to woe the countries that are depended on development and for not getting much help from WB and ADB. But US and Japan are against it for good reasons because of the later banking institutions. China like the Qing Dynasty has to learn from that mistake. The intrusion in the Spratly Islands are direct challenge not only to our country but to all peace loving nations. God is with us!

  4. Bagoong Alyansang Makabayan, shut the F/#@$% up. You guys are nothing but China lovers and so willing to compromise territories’ rightfully belonging to the Philippines. Give us an alternative plan on how to deal with China. Bilateral talks will never work. War with China against the Philippines, please it will be a turkey shoot. The reality is now China is too big, too powerful, they are the new school yard bully! Back when I was in the Elementary, the way we deal with bully’s bigger than me bring your older brother.

  5. Bakit maraming hanggal sa gobyerno,gustong papaniwalain ang mga tao na makakatulong ang mga bugaw na kano sa pilipinas!
    Lahat ng malapitan ng mga ito ay nagugulo at nagkakagutom,ang US ay salot!!sa lupa!ito ang mga taong nagpapakita ng mabuti pero sa loob at Utak nito ay tusong lobo!
    Wala panglugar na natahimik ng masakop nito!
    Gagawin lang nilang advance posisyon o garrison ang pilipinas,at tayo ngayon ang malalagay sa atake ng kalaban nila!
    Wala tayong kadala-dala noong giyerahin tayo ng hapon dahil sa kanila,ng matapos sino ang tinulungan nila?
    Kahit beterano natin halos manlimos Sa kanila!

  6. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    And what will you do renato Reyes with the incursions of your co-reds claiming some islands of the Philippines.? Nothing. Your big mouth is always for red china and not for the Philippines. It’s about time that renato Reyes and some of his colleagues should and must shut their mouths in favor of stupid china.

  7. sonny dela cruz on

    My concern is the installation of Missiles site in the reclamation islets. These missile installation should be monitored and stop by the allied forces now before it’s too late because China will fire this against countries around the region and as far as targets in Australia. These missiles sites also will control the air space around the China sea. China cannot be trusted, they have their own agenda because of their military superiority in the region. Japan and South Korea should show some power against the intimidation of China around the Asian Pacific region and join the military exercises now being done in the Philippine sea. Let China knows that the whole world is against their expansionism by force. China is already at war against the United States economically. They are trying to weaken the economy of the US by flooding of products made in China. Provide loans to the US government by the trillions of dollars so that they can do whatever they want to do without any challenge from the US government. I believe China may have thousands of spies in the US mainland because of sudden increase in Chinese population and lax of restriction for Chinese from mainland China to enter the country. The Americans are now at risk against China’s manipulation of domestic economy.