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Balikatan 2024 Goes Beyond Borders: Philippines, US, and Allies to Flex Muscles in International Waters.

The annual Balikatan military exercise between the Philippines and the United States is taking a giant leap forward this year. Balikatan 2024 will venture beyond Philippine territorial waters for the first time in its history, sending a strong message about regional security and alliance cooperation.

Colonel Michael Logico, the exercise’s executive agent, announced that activities will be conducted in the West Philippine Sea, exceeding the 12-nautical mile limit. This move signifies a significant shift from previous Balikatan exercises confined within Philippine territory.The maritime exercises planned for international waters will encompass a range of drills, including division tactics, search and rescue, and vessel boarding simulations. The participating forces, which include the Philippine Navy, US Navy, French Navy, and Philippine Coast Guard, will showcase their combined capabilities in a strategically important part of the region.
Beyond the symbolic gesture of venturing into international waters, Balikatan 2024 is shaping to be more extensive and comprehensive than ever before. The total troop count is expected to reach 16,000, with roughly 11,000 US personnel and 5,000 Filipinos participating. Additionally, around 14 countries will be sending observers to witness the event.

This year’s Balikatan also breaks new ground by incorporating other Philippine agencies. The Philippine Coast Guard and National Police will be integrated into the exercises, fostering inter-agency collaboration for a more holistic approach to national security. Furthermore, cyber defense and information warfare participants will be invited, reflecting the growing importance of these domains in modern warfare.

The Balikatan venue also expands beyond traditional training grounds. While exercises will still occur in Palawan, new locations like Batanes and Central Luzon will be included. This broader geographical scope demonstrates the Philippines’ commitment to safeguarding its territory.

With its expanded scale, international participation, and focus on inter-agency cooperation, Balikatan 2024 promises to be a landmark event. The exercise sends a clear message: the Philippines and its allies are prepared to defend their interests and ensure regional stability within and beyond territorial waters.