PH, US forces to begin 'Balikatan' April 5

Kyodo News

Posted at Mar 12 2013 09:31 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2013 05:31 AM

MANILA – Some 8,000 soldiers from the Philippines and the United States will participate next month in an annual exercise, aimed at improving combat readiness and interoperability between their military forces, it was announced Thursday.

Balikatan Exercise 2013, the 29th in a series that began in 1981, will be held April 5-17, with soldiers from the two countries conducting combined staff exercises and field training in various parts of Luzon Island, Philippine military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said in a statement.

Burgos said the highlight of this year's exercise will be a "Multinational Maritime Table-Top Exercise" held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City "to determine specific humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters, and build response

confidence among multinational partners."
The table-top exercise -- involving key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal group setting to assess plans and procedures and to identify problems and gaps -- will also be participated in by other countries in the region, he said.

Also during Balikatan 2013, the spokesman said, Philippine and U.S. military personnel will undertake joint humanitarian assistance projects in communities throughout Zambales province, north of Manila, such as repairing schools and offering free medical, dental and veterinary care.