MANILA–Only two of the military’s unified commands will be involved in this year’s “Balikatan” exercises with American units which will run from May 8 to 19th.
This is fewer compared to last year’s four.
Philippine “Balikatan” spokesperson Major Frank Sayson identified these unified commands as the Cebu-based Central Command (CENTCOM) and Tarlac-headquartered Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM).
In the 2016 “Balikatan” maneuvers, participating commands included the CENTCOM, NOLCOM, Southern Luzon Command and Western Command.
Sayson attributes the reduction to the fact that this year’s exercises are operating on one scenario concept which involves a massive storm or typhoon coming from the Pacific which will then pass through the Eastern Visayas, National Capital Region, reaching maximum strength upon arrival on the northern tip of Luzon, severely devastating it.
With that scenario in the offing, all participating units, whether on so-called “STAFFEX” fb(staff exercise) and “CPX” (command post exercise), will focus on responses to the particular scenario, he added.
And while these activities are more concerned with the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief aspects, Sayson said some counter-terrorism activities which is very important and relevant nowadays are also factored in.
“We will be having small arms military-to-military activities, some joint special operations activities which is really aligned to counter-terrorism,” he added in Filipino.
Other activities include underwater demolition activities in Ormoc, Leyte wherein US operatives will teach their Filipino counterparts the techniques in clearing up debris in the sea bottom to allow ships to safely dock and use the port and expedite the transport of relief supplies and aid to areas battered by typhoon and other calamities.
Participating US troops for this year’s “Balikatan” are placed at 2,600 personnel, with the Philippines fielding in 2,800 and 80 for the Australian Defense Forces.