AFP, US military open 27th Balikatan exercises

By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2011 01:16 PM | Updated as of Apr 06 2011 01:04 AM

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces formally opened the 27th Balikatan Exercises at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday morning.

Troops of both nations were represented in the ceremony, with the Philippine contingent represented by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Philippine Exercise Director Rear Admiral Victor Martir.

The US contingent was led by Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski and US Ambassador Harry Thomas. 

he annual exercises will take place as scheduled despite the reduction of the number of US forces from more than 5,000 troops in the past to 3,000 troops because of the relief efforts being conducted by the US in Japan.

In his speech, US Balikatan exercise director Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski  said that among the opportunities of training are a series of civil military operations, combined command post exercise, field training exercise, explosive ordnance disposal training and conducting disaster rehabilitation and rural development projects. 

For his part, Martir said the Balikatan exercises will focus on interoperability and cooperation of the two countries in terms of disaster relief , humanitarian crises and rehabilitation.  The exercises will strengthen the partnership, respect and trust between the two countries.