MANILA–American and Filipino troops will conduct the 33rd iteration of the annual “Balikatan” exercises, with special focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and counter-terrorism operations, in multiple locations in Luzon and the Visayas on May 8 to 19.
Major Frank Sayson, Philippine “Balikatan” public affairs officer, in a statement Monday said Exercise “Balikatan” 33-2017 will kick off community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte and Samar provinces.
US and Filipino service members will work together to renovate five schools and conduct community medical engagements with local residents in the opening days of the 12-day military training activity.
Sayson said preliminary work on community infrastructure projects began mid-April.
“Balikatan” 33-2017 incorporates high value training events designed to enhance the capabilities of both Philippine and US Armed Forces.
“The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in order to improve response effectiveness and speed in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety,” he said.
The Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board have carefully included President Rodrigo Duterte’s guidance for this year’s exercise.
The series of events manifest the exercise’s refocus to humanitarian civil assistance, HADR, and counter-terrorism.
The entire exercise follows a single-scenario concept where a super typhoon devastates areas along its route in the areas of Central Command, National Capital Region, and Northern Luzon, Sayson added.
This year’s exercise will have AFP and US forces partnering to improve their counter-terrorism 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 counter-terrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including advanced marksmanship, counter improvised explosive devices, and maritime interdiction against piracy.
In this year’s “Balikatan”, the Philippines and the United States will continue to collaborate with regional partner nations: forces from Australia and Japan will participate in all major training events, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the International Observers Program.