Annual ‘Balikatan’ exercises to start May 7


MANILA – This year’s “Balikatan” exercises, which will again focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, and mutual defense, are slated May 7-18, 2018, a military public information officer said Friday.

Navy Lt. Liezl Vidallon, “Balikatan 2018” public information officer, said all “Balikatan” exercises will be confined to the Northern Luzon Command areas of operation, which include provinces located in northern and central Luzon.

The number of participating American and Filipino troops will be announced later, Vidallon added.

“Balikatan” is the annual military exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Pacific Command.

“Throughout (the) ‘Balikatan’ (exercises), Philippines and US forces will be working shoulder-to-shoulder in information exchanges and live training events. This will enhance both forces’ interoperability in planning and execution of joints and combines operations to advance regional security cooperation and collaborative actions in addressing security concerns,” Vidallon said.

In last year’s “Balikatan” exercises, some 2,800 Filipino soldiers, 2,600 Americans, 80 members of the Australian Defence Force, and 20 from the Japan Self-Defense Force participated in the series of military maneuvers.

Highlights of last year’s exercises are the urban search-and-rescue and collapsed structures exercises held at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

They involved rescue methods for individuals trapped in collapsed structures, a common occurrence in massive earthquakes. With reports from Ericka Cirera, OJT/