MANILA — The Philippines and United States will once again team up for 2 weeks of military exercises under the annual Balikatan, with this year being described as the “largest-ever” iteration of the program.
About 8,900 Filipino and American troops will be joining in the exercises that will take place across Luzon from March 28 to April 8, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement Tuesday.
Of the total number of troops, 3,800 are from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 5,100 are U.S. military personnel.
The exercises for the 2022 Balikatan will focus on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Filipino and American soldiers are expected to undergo simulation exercises that will test their planning, command, and communication skills, the embassy said.
This year’s Balikatan exercises also include renovation of 4 elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques.
“Balikatan is a critical opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Philippine allies toward a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,’ as our Indo-Pacific Strategy calls for. The U.S. is proud to continue our participation in this long-standing exercise,” U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava said.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Embassy noted that health protocols will be observed.
For his part, AFP exercise director Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan said that the exercises “is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and the United States’ security relationship.”
He also noted that Balikatan 2022 coincides with the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and United States.
Balikatan is considered to be the cornerstone of the military relationships between the two countries since the U.S. closed its bases in the Philippines.
The name of the exercises is derived from the Tagalog word that means “shoulder-to-shoulder.”
The Philippines and US are defense treaty allies.