PH-US Balikatan 2024 opens, now in progress

MGen Marvin L. Licudine PA, PH Exercise Director, and Gen Romeo S. Brawner Jr. PA, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), along with U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Robert Ewing, MGen Noel D. Beleran PN(M), and LT Gen William M. Jurney USMC, US Exercise Director, linked arms Monday 22 April during the opening of the Philippines-United States Exercise Balikatan 39-2024 at the AFPCOC at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. This marks the 39th iteration of Balikatan, the largest annual bilateral training exercise between the two Allies, running from 22 April to 10 May 10. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

The three-week annual “Balikatan” military exercise between Filipino and American troops officially opened on Monday, with 16,000 soldiers representing the “essence of unity, collective responsibility and enduring partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and other partners.”

Speaking at the opening rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the 39th edition of the annual drills is not a partnership of convenience but a “clear reflection of our shared history, unwavering commitment to democracy and respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific Region.”

Browner the “Balikatan,” which literally means “shoulder” to shoulder, stands as an evidence of the Philippines and America’s efforts to enhance the cooperation, dedication and mutual intentions that strengthen the interoperability of the two nations’ military forces.

“Through joint and combined operational settings, we have diligently worked to achieve our shared goals, since as coastal nations the Philippines and the United States share the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean,” he added.

The AFP chief stressed that maritime cooperation is vital in addressing complex challenges that threaten peace and security in the region. “Together alongside our like-minded partners we are fully committed to upholding a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. The ever-evolving nature of defense necessitates our adoption and transformation,” he added.

Browner said the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept would enhance the Philippines’ defense capabilities. “Balikatan also represents an extraordinary opportunity for us to deepen our collaborations with friends, partners and allies,” he  said. 

The exercises involving 11,000 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos, that will run until May 10. Observers from Southeast Asia, United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, India and Germany would also monitor the exercises.

“Their presence signifies the tremendous importance of friendliness crossing borders as we together strive to foster a free, open and internationally based order in the Indo-Pacific Region,” Brawner stressed.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) on Monday announced that 157 of its officers were deployed for the military drills.

“The SAF contingent will participate in a range of activities such as high-risk visits, board search and seizure, dive operations, urban warfare, direct action ISO key maritime security operations, fast rope insertion and extraction system, special reconnaissance ISO high mobility artillery rocket system, military operations in urban terrain, friendship jump, civil-military operations-civil affairs, evaluator/supervisor, event planner/C2, and bilateral academic seminar,” SAF director Maj. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a statement. ( With PNA)