Balikatan Exercises 2015 officially began Monday with close to 12,000 Filipino and American troops participating in various military drills.
At yesterday’s opening ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippine officials were quick to say the exercises are not in response to the tensions brought about by Chinese aggression in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea.
The exercises, they reiterated, are meant to enhance the two countries’ military-to-military relations and readiness on humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations as well as territorial defense.
This year’s Balikatan Exercises is the largest in 15 years with the United States fielding in 6,656 troops, more than double the approximately 2,500 American troops who participated in the joint military exercises.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is deploying 5,023 personnel while some 70 members of the Australian Defense Force are also taking part in the exercises.
International observers from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Timor Leste, India, Japan, and South Korea, are also participating.
Now on the 31st of its series, the Balikatan exercises will be conducted simultaneously in different areas in the country.