Photo Information

From left, Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commander, Southern Luzon Command, and Philippine Exercise Co-Director; Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna, Undersecretary of the Department of National Defense; Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines; Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., AFP Chief of Staff; and U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Christopher A. McPhillips, commanding general, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade stand shoulder-to-shoulder at Tejeros Hall, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines, April 1, 2019. The ceremony represented the official commencement of Balikatan 2019 and the continued partnership between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. Balikatan 19, in its 35th iteration, is an annual U.S.-Philippine military training focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, and other combined military operations held from April 1 to April 12.

Photo by Sgt. Trystan Jordan

Balikatan 19: AFP, US Forces Open 35th Balikatan Exercise

1 Apr 2019 | Courtesy Story The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Philippine, U.S. and Australian service members gathered together during the Balikatan 2019 opening ceremony to mark the official start of the exercise on Monday, April 1, 2019 in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, symbolizes the partnership between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Forces.

“Exercise Balikatan has become one of the premier military training events in the Pacific Hemisphere and has helped us to maintain regional stability, uphold international norms, combat violent extremism, alleviate human suffering, and much more,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Christopher McPhillips, U.S. Exercise Director.

During Balikatan, which will run from April 1-12, Philippine and U.S. forces will conduct counterterrorism training, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations training, aviation operations, bilateral planning, subject matter expert exchanges, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects throughout Luzon.

“The 35th iteration of Exercise Balikatan is aimed at improving both AFP and US Forces’ interoperability through trainings that are focused on mutual defense operations and counterterrorism. The goal of such is to enhance both militaries’ employment of forces and assistance in the event of crises that threaten the safety and security of the nation,” said Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Philippines Exercise Director. 

Balikatan focuses on maintaining a high level of readiness and responsiveness, and enhancing combined military-to-military relations and capabilities. Balikatan training helps to reinforce maritime security, territorial defense capabilities, and responsiveness to humanitarian disasters.

The exercise also includes the participation of the Australian Defence Force for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and special operations forces training.  

Philippine and U.S. military collaboration has served as a cornerstone for stability in the Indo-Pacific region for decades. Both militaries share a continuing interest in strengthening the longstanding alliance.