They Have Returned

Largest US military contingent arrives for war games

As the country celebrates “Day of Valor” and the “Philippines Veteran Week,” some 12,200 US military personnel set foot in the country, the largest contingent of US forces that landed here since World War II.

The American forces with some 5,400 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will train under the joint Balikatan military exercises developing interoperability and improved capability in the areas of maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban and aviation operations, cyber defense, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.

The US Embassy in the Philippines said the “increase in participating personnel from Balikatan 2022’s 9,000 participants shows that the scope of the exercise grows consistently year after year.”

From April 11 to 28, the AFP and the US military will participate in Balikatan 2023, an annual bilateral exercise between the two allies and the largest iteration of military exercise to date. This year marks the 38th iteration of the joint military exercise with training activities throughout the Philippines.

The Balikatan 2023 will include a bilateral command post exercise that will strengthen the Allies’ ability to plan, coordinate, and provide command and control of forces together against a range of scenarios and simulated challenges.

The trainings will enable the AFP and the US military to refine tactics, techniques, and procedures related to maritime security, and deconflict fires and maneuver in a shared and contested battlespace.

Field training exercise events will take place across the Philippines to test the Allies’ capabilities in combined arms live-fire, information and intelligence sharing, communications between maneuver units, logistics operations, amphibious operations, and many other skill sets.

The AFP and US military will also conduct multiple Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) projects to improve infrastructure, enhance medical response, and strengthen ties between local communities and Philippine and American military forces. These activities include the construction or renovation of three community health centers and multipurpose halls and hands-on training in advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques.

“The Balikatan Exercise enhances both the AFP and the United States Armed Forces’ tactics, techniques, and procedures across a wide range of military operations,” said AFP Spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar. “It increases our ability to work together effectively and efficiently in response to various crisis situations.”

“Balikatan provides unparalleled opportunities to demonstrate the strength and readiness of the Philippine-U.S. security alliance,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Huvane, Balikatan Combined Joint Information Director.

“Engagements such as Balikatan are important investments in our ability to work together across the spectrum of military operations, respond to crises, support the people of the Philippines, and accomplish our shared missions.”

The Philippines and the United States are committed to promoting regional peace and stability in Southeast Asia, where China is currently in a spat with neighboring countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Chinese military incursions had been prevalent in the areas claimed by the Philippine government. Chinese military vessels had been consistently harassing Filipino fishermen in the area where skirmishes had been recorded in the past. –Photos courtesy of Philippine Army and Balikatan Exercise FB Page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *