‘Balikatan’ demonstrates strength of PHL, US alliance

MANILA, Philippines — The alliance between the Philippines and the United States is strong and demonstrated by the yearly “Balikatan” exercises between the militaries of the two nations.

This was emphasized by US “Balikatan” exercise director Lt. Gen. John Toolan during Monday’s opening ceremonies.

“Our alliance is strong. The United States is committed to this relationship and these are not empty words. These are in (the) American expression, putting our money where our mouth is. We have over 5,000 US Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen here which represent this substantial commitment of the Pacific Command,” he added.

“We have a bond, we have a special bond forged in Cabanatuan, Corrigidor or Leyte and we should never forget that. As the present commander of US Marine Forces Pacific, I have been blessed of being able to cultivate relationships with many of the senior officers, and representatives of the Philippine Armed Forces,” Toolan pointed out.

He added that peace in Southeast Asia depends on cooperation.

“And as we think about the Philippines and its security landscape, analyzing its history, patterns and dynamics of how our militaries engage with one another, we can identify one area that’s missing and what we can do better to help our two nations achieve their respective aspirations for defense and security,” Toolan said.

“My staff and I have engaged many people about the challenges past, present, and future associated with the security environment in the Philippines, and the Philippines’ ability to achieve its security goal. what i feel , both American and Filipino professionally and personally is the overriding foundation of desire to achieve and end-state of a sovereign, independent, self sufficient, self relying Philippines fully capable of effectively addressing its own course security requirements,” he added.

Toolan said their view of Philippines self-sufficiency and self-reliance was real and US forces in “Balikatan” were here to showcase that.

“We have made significant progress. And as President Obama said recently in the Philippines, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. The United States will keep that commitment because allies never stand alone. This view of helping the AFP achieve self sufficiency and self-reliance is about enhancing the alliance and transforming it from an alliance borne out of necessity to an alliance based principally on shared values and the belief that our nations share real and (immutable) bond of friendship,” he said. Priam Nepomuceno/PNA / northboundasia.com