Using some of their advanced assets, Philippine and US naval forces on Monday conducted a disaster response drill tailor fit for the circumstances of Aurora, a province often struck by damaging typhoons.
During the Casiguran leg of the 2017 Balikatan Exercises, US Marine Ospreys and Blackhawks complemented the Philippines' biggest ship BRP Tarlac, a Philippine frigate, and a W109 choppers in the simulation of a large-scale relief operation.
As demonstrated, if Casiguran--or any part of Aurora--were to be cut off from the road in the event of a storm, the BRP Tarlac and other vessels would be loaded with relief goods and transported by air using helicopters, or via beach landing as demonstrated by the Navy and Marines via their landing dock units capable of reaching all the way to the beach.
Similar humanitarian aid efforts were conducted by the US in Leyte during Supertyphoon Yolanda, where its warships were loaded with food, medicine, and ice, and transported via helicopters.
But compared to previous years, there were far less American and Philippine troops in Balikatan 2017: a little more than half of the 10,000 or so soldier-participants in last years's Balikatan.
While the current Balikatan exercises do not tackle territorial defense and maritime security, Casiguran also plays a vital part in the defense of Benham Rise.
It is the closest land area to it and the one with an existing basic infrastructure to build a naval base for the protection of Benham Rise from incursion.
Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano said plans to build a naval base in Casiguran are in the planning stages. Casiguran currently has a basic port and an airstrip.
The joint exercises allowed the Philippine troops to familiarize themselves with the waters of Casiguran for both naval and humanitarian purposes.