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Nearly 9K soldiers join Balikatan 2022

Photos courtesy of Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

APPROXIMATELY 8,900 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military are teaming up for Balikatan 2022, the Philippine-led annual exercise taking place across Luzon, from March 28 to April 8, that will bolster and expand mutual defense, humanitarian, and disaster response and contribute the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

The 3,800 AFP members and 5,100 U.S. military personnel will train shoulder-to-shoulder focusing on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

Photos courtesy of Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

In his opening statement, AFP chief of staff General Andres Centino, said for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic we are truly blessed to uphold this activity dubbed as the Philippines- United States Balikatan exercise 37-2022.

“Through the years the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US have constantly worked together to enhance each other’s capabilities to confront current and emerging security threats within our domestic landscapes as well as the international environment,” Centino said.

“In light of the volatile and uncertain nature of ambiguous nature of the security settings that we are faced with and the fast-changing advancement in the warfare, it has indeed a shared responsibility to address vulnerabilities and ensure that both our Armed Forces are able to promptly and effectively respond to any crisis or emergency under all circumstances,” he added.

The AFP chief of staff said that the annual Philippine Balikatan exercise, one of the long-standing mutual engagement between our two countries that have paved the way to enhance interoperation, collaboration, and mutual commitment, all aimed at collective security.

“More importantly the Balikatan exercise truly embodies the friendship and alliance between our two countries after all Balikatan from the Filipino word Balikat means “shoulder to shoulder,” he added.

Last, he further said that “as we work continuously shoulder to shoulder, this exercise will certainly strengthen the Interoperability of the both our Armed Forces mutual defense, humanitarian and disaster response and decisively contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region,”

Moreover, Centino said the Philippine- US Balikatan exercise 37-2022 is truly special as the magnitude of this year’s exercise is a testament to the deepening alliance between the two countries.

“With that I would like to express on behalf of my government our profound gratitude to the US government and US Armed Forces for your unwavering commitment and support to uphold our obligations to the mutual defense treaty,” he further said.

Photos courtesy of Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

“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,” said U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava. 

“During Balikatan, the U.S. military and AFP will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, 3rd Marine Division Commanding General. 

“The friendship and trust between our forces will enable us to accomplish any mission across the spectrum of military operations,” Bargeron said.

The exercise also includes a command post exercise that tests the AFP and U.S. forces’ ability to plan, command, and communicate with each other in a simulated environment. This training will bolster the collective security and defensive capabilities of the alliance. 

“Exercise Balikatan is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and United States’ security relationship,” said Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, AFP Exercise Director for Balikatan 22. “The experience gained in the exercise complements our security cooperation endeavors and will help to enhance existing mutual security efforts.” 

The AFP and U.S. military will also conduct multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects during this year’s Balikatan, including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques. 

These construction projects, health engagements, and community relations events improve local infrastructure, facilitate the exchange of lifesaving medical skills, and strengthen ties between Philippine communities and Philippine and American military forces. 

COVID-19 mitigation remains a priority for both nations. U.S. forces will comply with all Philippine government COVID-19 travel regulations and will maintain social distancing and wear face masks during exercises as operationally feasible. 

“Balikatan” is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and represents the alliance between the Philippines and the United States. 

“Balikatan 22 coincides with the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Philippine security cooperation and a shared commitment to promoting peace,” said Maj. Gen. Bargeron. “Our alliance remains a key source of strength and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” 

Exercises like Balikatan strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region. 

He further said that the United States is proud to participate in this Philippine-led exercise to improve both nations’ capabilities across a wide range of military operations.

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