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Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States Army (US) completed the 37and iteration of joint Balikatan exercises on Friday 8 April.
In a statement, AFP said nearly 9,000 Filipino and American military personnel trained side by side from the northern coast of Luzon to Palawan over the past two weeks.
The exercises covered maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, air operations, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
More than 50 aircraft, four ships, 10 amphibious vehicles, four high-mobility artillery rocket system launchers and four Patriot missile systems were used during the military exercises.
This year’s exercise also included around 40 members of the Australian Defense Force, AFP said.
During the two-week activity, Filipino and American soldiers executed the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise at Tarlac through ground maneuver, artillery, mortars and air elements aimed at improving interoperability joint and combined and partner capacity during a crisis.
The amphibious exercise in Cagayan, on the other hand, enhanced the military’s ability to conduct and develop interoperability in amphibious operations.
Participating troops also conducted several humanitarian and civic assistance projects, including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced lifesaving and emergency rescue techniques.
The closing ceremony took place at the AFP headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.
Attending were AFP Chief of Staff General Andres Centino, PH Exercise Director Major General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, US Exercise Director Representative Brigadier General Joseph Clearfield, and Under Secretary of Defense Cardozo Luna.
“This year’s Balikatan is a testament to the resilience of the Philippines-US alliance, as we remain strong partners even after the various challenges we have faced over the past two years,” Centino said.
“The experience gained from Exercise Balikatan has complemented our security cooperation efforts and helped strengthen existing mutual security efforts. Although the pandemic has caused limitations, it is highly commendable that the exercise was successfully completed and generated a favorable outcome,” said MGen Gaerlan.
The Acting Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in the Philippines, Heather Variava, was the guest of honor and speaker.
“After two years of a global pandemic, U.S. and Philippine forces have come together to carry out one of the largest Balikatan exercises ever. This speaks to the strength of the U.S.-Philippine alliance and the common priorities of our countries,” she said.
Clearfield, who is also the deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said the completion of Balikatan 2022 is a clear example of the two militaries’ shared commitment to advancing peace and peace. stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Through our mutual efforts, our armies have grown together in friendship, and we are better prepared to respond as a cohesive team to any crisis or challenge,” he said.