Manila, Philippines – United States military forces will once again train alongside Filipino troops in the 33rd iteration of the Balikatan Exercises (Balikatan) in Luzon and Visayas.
The US Embassy stated on 24 April 2017 that the Philippine Government had invited the US military to train with members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The invitation came despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise that military exercises between the AFP and the US military would come to a halt. Be that as it may, Balikatan 33-2017 will start with community engagement activities from 8-19 May 2017 in Panay, Leyte and Samar.
US and Filipino troops are set to renovate schools and provide community medical services with locals in the opening days of the military exercises. But preliminary work on community infrastructure projects had been going on since the middle of April this year.
As in all Balikatan exercises, Balikatan 33-2017 will incorporate high value training exercises designed to enhance armed forces capabilities of both participants. This round’s training will center more on humanitarian assistance and disaster operations pertaining to relief and response effectiveness. This Balikatan will focus more on the essentials skills best suited for the country’s situation as typhoon season is soon coming. Our forces must be ready in the event of a natural disaster and other crises endangering public health and safety.
Aside from that, another part of the exercises will deal with counter-terrorism capabilities, this year’s exercises will work on creating and sustaining safer communities to help eliminate the global terror threat and its networks.
Operational and counter-terrorism training in key areas of expertise include: live fire advanced marksmanship, counter improvised explosive devices, maritime interdiction, and amphibious raids.
The US government is confident that previous exercises had prepared participating troops in handling natural disasters and security threats as well as responding to the same in their respective regions. This comes despite the president’s previous statements to cut joint military exercises between US and Filipino troops during his term.
This is the first Balikatan exercise or war games under the Duterte administration.