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U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

In Any Clime and Place

Philippines, U.S. begin Balikatan 2017 with Opening Ceremony

By U.S. Air Force Senior AIrman Corey Pettis | U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | May 8, 2017


Government officials and senior military leaders of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines announced the opening of Balikatan 33-2017, May 8.

Balikatan 2017 is the 33rd iteration of the annual U.S.-Philippine bilateral military exercise taking place May 8-19. It is focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, and other combined military operations. This year, the Philippines and the United States will also work alongside multinational forces from the Australian Defence Force and the Japan Self-Defense Forces in all major training events.

“We are here today to open a key bilateral engagement between the U.S. and the Philippines that addresses global challenges,” said Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. “We recognize the need to work together to overcome the daunting challenges posed by international terror networks, and also understand that bilateral disaster response training can help save lives and help rebuild devastated communities.”

This exercise will demonstrate cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. as the two militaries train and share information to improve their ability to coordinate a bilateral response to natural disasters and terrorism.

“The AFP-U.S. Balikatan exercises have been an avenue for us to enhance the cooperation between our military forces,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Eduardo M. Año, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines. “Through continuous training and learning, we have mutually developed our teamwork. These annual exercises have also provided us the opportunity to test and validate our force interoperability.” 

Approximately 5,500 U.S. and AFP forces will be conducting a series of humanitarian civic assistance to improve U.S.-Philippine interoperability. During these events, Philippine and U.S. service members will conduct multiple engineering civic assistance projects in communities on Panay, Leyte and Samar.

Additionally, more than 16 local community-based health professionals will contribute to the cooperative health engagements associated with the HCA activities, while civil military activities from the sea and bilateral service interoperability events will be conducted at Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Base, and other AFP installations in Luzon.

“Balikatan literally means shoulder-to-shoulder, but it can also be used to denote the partnership between mutually supportive entities that share a common goal,” Año said. “The alliance between the Philippines and the United States traces its roots back to the era of our forefathers and has withstood the test of time.”

The Philippines and U.S. have been treaty allies, and longstanding defense cooperation partners, dating back to their Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

“Throughout the course of history, countless accounts of sacrifices and heroism have been shared by our nation’s militaries,” Año said. “From World War II, to the Korean and Vietnam wars, up to our current global fight against terrorism, our armed forces have continuously shared ordeals that have strengthened our bond.”

By training together the U.S. military and AFP build upon shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that enhance readiness and response capabilities during real-world challenges.

“No nation can face today’s challenges alone,” Kim said. “Whether a natural disaster ravages the world, or a man-made crisis shocks a community, our two militaries can deliver much stronger responses together. The lessons we take from Balikatan this year will allow us to respond together to the next disaster more quickly and more effectively.”