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32nd Exercise Balikatan Opens at Camp Aguinaldo

By Sgt. Erik Estrada | U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific | April 4, 2016

CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines – Government officials and senior military leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Armed Forces announced the opening of Exercise Balikatan 2016, April 4.

“Balikatan brings our armed forces together in bilateral activity that will not only validate our procedures in joint military operations,” said Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command commander and the exercise director for the Philippine Forces. “But more importantly will strengthen our long standing camaraderie and friendship.”

The Philippines and U.S. have been treaty allies and longstanding defense cooperation partners, dating back to their Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. 

“All of us being here today demonstrates an ironclad commitment to each other, and our respective peoples,” said Lt. Gen. John Toolan, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and the exercise director for U.S. forces. “Today, we truly stand side-by-side.”

Approximately 5,000 U.S., 3,500 AFP, and 80 Australian Defence Force personnel will take part in the 32nd iteration of the exercise. This year’s Balikatan will focus on three simultaneous events through one single scenario across the Philippine islands, Luzon, Palawan and Panay. 

“The single scenario that will last through all events,” Toolan said. “It focuses on training and enhancing the capabilities of the AFP, U.S. and Australian armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that could endanger the public’s health and safety.” 

Joint forces will be conducting Humanitarian Civic Assistance projects to improve HCA interoperability between the participating nations and improve the local community as well as a bilateral Simulation Supported Event, force integration training and an operational event at Crow Valley, Clark Air Field, Fort Magsaysay, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Subic Bay, and Antique Bay in Panay.

“Balikatan represents our security alliance to the Philippines,” said Philip S. Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. “The skills learned at this exercise will serve both of our countries well, whatever challenges faced in the future.”