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NEWS | May 10, 2024

Philippines and U.S. Conclude Balikatan Exercises, Shoulder-To-Shoulder

By Courtesy story, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

The Armed Forces of the Philippines hosted the closing ceremony of Exercise Balikatan 2024, marking the successful conclusion of the largest annual combined military exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America.

Over the past three weeks, Filipino, American, Australian, and French servicemembers trained shoulder-to-shoulder at locations throughout the Philippines to increase proficiency in maritime security, amphibious operations, combined arms, aviation operations, and information and cyberspace operations.

“It’s no coincidence that as democratic nations, the values we share are enshrined in our respective national anthems,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Michael Cederholm, U.S. Exercise Joint Task Force commander. “Those anthems talk about heroes, those that are brave, about defending freedom, and defending our respective shores from external attackers. I could not be prouder of the men and women in the field, the operational planning staffs, and all the enablers; they have truly made Balikatan 24 an incredible success.”

In addition to field training events, humanitarian civic assistance teams built schools and medical centers at four locations while training medical providers, gifting education supplies, and building relationships with local communities. All told, the HCA efforts injected nearly $50 million into locations throughout the country.

Service members from each of the participating countries and military services were in attendance, including representatives from 14 countries taking part in the exercise’s international observer program.

“Every Balikatan is increasingly more complex. This year has produced several new collaborations considering dynamic challenges across all domains,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippine exercise director.

This year’s exercises emphasized quality over quantity, with intentional focus on the complexity of concepts from planning to execution. The growing modernization of both the AFP and the U.S. military was evident throughout. Balikatan prepared the combined forces for potential contingencies and disasters and increased each country’s ability to work together to protect Philippine sovereignty and preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

“Exercise Balikatan stands as proof of our collective commitment to enhancing interoperability in support of long-term prosperity. Not only for participating nations, but for the world,” said Hon. MaryKay Los Carlson, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.

Balikatan is an annual exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. This year’s exercise marks the 39th iteration of the annual event, showcasing the ironclad Alliance and enduring friendship between the two nations. Approximately 16,000 Philippine and U.S. military personnel are participating.