Manila — U.S.Ambassador Sung Kim, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ariel Y. Abadilla, and representatives of theArmed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US military officially opened Balikatan 33 this week at Camp Aguinaldo. The 33rd iteration ofBalikatan, scheduled from May 8 to 19, will take place at multiple locations inLuzon and the Visayas region.
Balikatan 33-2017 incorporates high value training events designed to enhance the capabilities of both AFP and US armed forces. The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counterterrorism operations in order to improve response effectiveness and speed in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.
Philippine and US forces began work in mid-Aprilfor Balikatan 33-2017 through community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte,and Samar, including the renovation of five schools and community medical engagements with local residents.
“No nation can face today’s challenges alone,” saidAmbassador Kim. “Whether a natural disaster ravages part of the world ora man-made crisis shocks a community, our two militaries can deliver much stronger responses together.”
This year’s exercise will have AFP and US forces partnering to improve their counterterrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work towards the eradication of global terror networks. During Balikatan, US and Philippine forces will conduct operational and counterterrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs),maritime interdiction, and amphibious raids.
In this year’s Balikatan, the Philippines and theUnited States will continue to collaborate with regional partner nations, and the AFP has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the International Observers Program, including South Korea, East Timor, Brunei,Thailand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.