MANILA - The Philippines and the United States will once again come together in joint exercises despite 2 major incidents that have cast a shadow over the military ties between the 2 countries.
In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said 5,000 US soldiers and 6,000 Filipino soldiers will engage in the 31st Balikatan Exercises, which will officially begin on April 20.
“Our Armed Forces and the US Armed Forces are coming together for this mutual defense and disaster response exercises towards a more responsive partnership to the community focusing on development and community service,” the AFP said.
The Balikatan is a yearly exercise that seeks to enhance the capabilities of both nations’ armed forces, as anchored on provisions of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
The 2015 Balikatan will have three simultaneous events: Humanitarian Civic Assistance, Command Post Exercise, and Field Training Exercise.
The first is a joint civil-military operation by the AFP, US and Australian Defense Forces (ADF) in selected areas of the Western Command (WESCOM) area of responsibility in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan and Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility in Panay Island. It is seen to enhance civil-military cooperation in support of the AFP and US objectives.
The Command Post Exercise, on the other hand, will focus on Marine Security (MARSEC) with Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) to demonstrate the capability of the AFP National Maneuver Force.
“Selected US and ADF staff members will form a Joint Liaison Group (JLG) to support the capability development at each staff,” the AFP said.
The field trainings, on the other hand, will involve the Philippine Army (PA), Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), AFP Special Operations Force (SOF), United States Army (USAR), United States Air Force (USAF), United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Crops (USMC), and United States SOF (US SOF).
These will be held in Crow Valley Gunnery Range (CVGR), Tarlac; Basa Air Base (BAB), Floridablanca and Clark Air Base (CAB) Angeles City, both in Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija (FMNE); Marine Base Gregorio Lim (MBGL), Ternate, Cavite; Naval Base Heracleo Alano (NBHA), Sangley Point, Cavite and at Naval Station Leovigildo Gantiouqui (NSLG), San Antonio, Zambales.
The field exercise is seen to enhance capacities and improve tactics, techniques and procedures, reinforce relations, and improve the interoperability of AFP, US and ADF forces.
The joint exercise comes amid renewed tensions in the South China Sea as China continues to expand land claims.
Admiral Harry Harris of the US Pacific Fleet recently said the US is ready to respond to security threats in the Asia-Pacific region.
Some critics have used the bloody Mamasapano incident, where the US provided anti-terror assistance, and the Jennifer Laude murder case involving US Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton to question what they say is a skewed relationship between the 2 countries.