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Balikatan 2017 Comes to Closure with Ceremony

By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft | U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | May 19, 2017

QUEZON CITY, Quezon City -- Leaders from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. military, representatives from Japan Self-Defense Forces and Australian Defence Force, as well as local government officials concluded this year’s Balikatan exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, May 19, 2017.

The ceremony marked the conclusion of two weeks of bilateral U.S.-Philippine military exercises that focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, and other combined military operations.

Leaders came together to speak on behalf of all involved parties to show their appreciation for the teamwork and friendships that made the 33rd Balikatan successful.

“Together, we have just completed a tremendous event that focuses on missions that enhance the combined capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States, along with contributing forces from Australia and Japan,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Brian Cavanaugh, deputy commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “We train together as partners and allies while strengthening our friendship.”

AFP leaders also recognized the strengthening friendship and addressed service members who participated in the events.
“As I toured and visited the various events of the combined Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Special Forces, I saw and felt your passion and enthusiasm to improve your skills as military professionals,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, Philippine exercise director.

AFP leaders also expressed how their U.S.-Philippine military history of standing together with common goals tied into Balikatan exercises.
“These challenges have given us opportunities to further strengthen our ties,” said Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff, AFP. “Balikatan exercises have been an avenue for us to nurture our bond as well, and they are manifestations of our unity of trust and willingness to come each other’s aid in times of need.”

Año added that he was certain this year’s lessons will enhance interoperability between partners.

Top military leaders expressed how this year’s successful Balikatan exercise further developed their nations’ partnership.

“I cannot be any more pleased with the manner in which our militaries have worked together and once again demonstrated the enduring bonds which exist between us, bonds that have been forged from years of working together shoulder to shoulder,” Canavaugh said.
The Philippine Secretary of Defense concluded the ceremony by explaining the core principal for which Balikatan exercises are held.

“Balikatan is a perfect demonstration of collaboration, proving that nations will be stronger if they work together and that the weight of threats and challenges is made lighter if we shoulder the burden together,” said Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary of National Defense of the Philippines.
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