Warfare proficiency, disaster rapid response cap ‘Balikatan 33’

IMPROVE disaster response, be it a natural calamity or man-made crisis, and enhanced counter terrorism capabilities are just among the major exercises conducted between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military during the 12-day ‘Balikatan 33’ held in separate areas in Luzon and Visayas.

“Both AFP and US military completed the ‘Balikatan 33’ (shoulder-to-shoulder) training exercise and now stand more prepare to respond to terror threats and natural disasters in the region,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

US Embassy said the holding of ‘Balikatan 33’ was a success, building on a long and productive history of joint military exercises that enhance inter-operability, strengthen partnerships, and improve disaster response and counterterrorism capabilities.

“The teamwork of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces ensures a more rapid response to natural disasters and manmade crises, saving lives, and helping the Philippine people, “US Embassy added.

“Our nations face an increasingly complex and volatile security environment,” said Ambassador Sung Kim during the closing ceremony of Balikatan 33.

Now more than ever, Kim said our armed forces must work together closely. He said exercises like Balikatan build upon the long and productive history between our two militaries and ensure that we are always ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of our lives, our shared values, and international rules-based order.

The AFP and US military focus on diverse areas of expertise such as live fire advanced marksmanship, small unit tactics, counter improvised explosive device, maritime interdiction and amphibious raids during the Balikatan.

Participants in the ‘Balikatan 33’ also conducted ship to shore movement of military personnel and equipment, air operations, and aid distribution to bolster disaster response capabilities.

For civic and outreach activities, US Embassy said constructed new classrooms and community buildings including repair of some educational facilities in Dulag and Tapaz in Capiz, Ormoc in Leyte, and Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

The US military distributed emergency readiness equipment and aid worth $400,000 in Luzon and the Central Visayas regions.

Participating AFP and US military forces and its medical teams shared basic lifesaving skills, disease prevention, and physical and dental hygiene – all critical during times of crisis.

“To help prepare for a natural disaster hitting the region, U.S. troops coordinated with local municipal leadership to identify locations capable of supporting relief operations and helped develop crisis response plans.” US Embassy said.

Australia and Japan military participated in the Balikatan 33, While UK and some ASEAN countries were invited as guests as part of the International Observers Program.