MANILA — About 3,000 soldiers from the Philippine Army and United States Army Pacific are taking part in the annual Salaknib Exercise starting Monday.
The Salaknib is a yearly exercise between Philippine and US armies, geared towards strengthening the interoperability of both troops in a spectrum of military operations.
This year’s Salaknib exercise will be held in 2 phases: the first is scheduled from March 13 to April 4, while the second is scheduled for the second quarter of 2023.
“In addition to the normal exercises and trainings we have, we will infuse more programs and training exercises that involve tactics we are learning from the Russia-Ukraine conflict… We will definitely benefit from that aspect,” Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. told reporters at the sidelines of the Salaknib opening ceremony at Fort Magsaysay.
“One thing we are learning from the Russia-Ukraine conflict is that you do not need a very strong Army to defend yourselves. Kahit na mangilan-ngilan lang ang ating modern weapons, the important thing is the will to fight of the people,” he added.
A handful of observers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will also participate in the exercise.
Brawner emphasized the importance of interoperability with allies and partner countries, as the Philippine Army shifts focus to territorial defense from internal security amid an evolving regional security environment.
“For instance, when we were facing [communist rebels] in the country, our exercises were geared towards that… Then came the threat of terrorist groups, like the ISIS-inspired terrorist groups, so our exercises were geared towards counterterrorism,” Brawner explained.
“This time, we are seeing the near of the end of [communist groups] in the country. We are shifting towards territorial defense. In our scenarios in Salaknib together with the US forces, we will be training on scenarios that will allow us to work and operate together to face adversaries from out of the country," he added.
Brawner then continued, “The scenarios will involve the defense of the PH archipelago… from potential foreign aggressors. We will focus on defense operations such as air defense and defense from the shorelines."
Just a month ago, the Philippines expanded the United States' access to 4 more of its military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The move was seen as an attempt to counter China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly amid territorial disputes between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.