MANILA (Mabuhay) – The “Balikatan 2014” Exercise between the Philippine and United States troops officially opened on Monday morning, focused mostly on humanitarian civic assistance (HCA), humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) and maritime security.
The opening ceremonies took place at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Commissioned Officers’ Clubhouse in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City at around 8:30 a.m.
Among those in attendance were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, Philippine exercise director Major Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye and U.S. exercise director Lt. Gen. Terry Robling of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lt. (SG) Annaleah Cazcarro, Combined-Joint Information Bureau co-director, said “Balikatan 2014” is the 30th iteration of the annual military maneuvers.
“This year’s exercise will focus on HCA, HADR and maritime security,” she added.
“Balikatan” is an annual bilateral combined exercise initiated by the governments of the Philippines and the United States.
For this year, it is scheduled in the Philippines from May 5 to 16.
Cazcarro said the staff planning exercises are scheduled in Camp Aguinaldo and in Western Command in Puerto Princesa City, while the field training exercises will be conducted in military camps in Luzon, Clark Field, Crow Valley and Fort Magsaysay.
“’Balikatan’ 2014 is structured to further develop the AFP in crisis-action planning, enhancing its ability to effectively conduct counter-terrorism operations, and promote interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces,” she added.
The annual exercise is consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the U.S. which aim is to continue both countries’ commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other. (MNS)