31st iteration of Balikatan kicks off

20 Apr 2015 | Cpl. Matthew Bragg The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Government officials and senior military leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Armed Forces announced the opening of Exercise Balikatan 2015 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Republic of the Philippines, April 20.

Balikatan, which translates to “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, is an annual bilateral exercise between the AFP and the U.S. military, which focuses on improving security cooperation activities, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, and crisis response throughout the region in accordance with the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board.

“We know from previous generations of Balikatan that, working together, security and stability aren’t free," said Brig. Gen. C. J. Mahoney, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific deputy commander and deputy director of the exercise. “We have to work at it, and I believe Balikatan and many other exercises we conduct throughout the year are concrete examples of how like-minded nations can work cooperatively to address our common interests and concerns.”

Approximately 6,500 U.S., 5,000 AFP and 70 Australian Defence Force personnel will take part in the 31st iteration of the exercise, which consists of a series of humanitarian civic assistance projects, a scenario-based staff planning exercise focused on territorial defense, and field training exercises to enhance military-to-military relationships.

Similar to past Balikatan exercises, the AFP and U.S. military will conduct medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action projects to enhance the Philippine-U.S. relationship, train together and assist the local community.

“It’s about working together shoulder to shoulder as partners, friends and allies,” said Philip S. Goldberg, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. “It’s about preparing to confront emerging challenges across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Goldberg reiterated that the increased presence of troops participating in the exercise were not aimed at any country or group of countries.

“We speak on the mutual defense of our two countries, but it is the men and the women of the armed services that see these commitments through,” said Evan Garcia, the acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs. “We stand tall not simply as allies, but also as friends bound by shared principles. The region and the world may change, but our dedication to the promotion of the principles of democracy and freedom remains.”

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