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PH, US launch annual 'Balikatan' exercises
PH, US launch annual 'Balikatan' exercises
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PH, US launch annual 'Balikatan' exercises
by Christhel Cuazon22 April 2024
Photo courtesy: Armed Forces of the Philippines Facebook page

The Philippines and United States (US) on Monday, April 22 launched its annual bilateral military exercise or 'Balikatan' in a bid to counter Beijing's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

For this year, the annual drills will focus on bolstering collaboration and readiness across a broad spectrum of critical areas, including external defense operations, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and inter-agency capacity-building.

It will also be concentrated in the northern and western parts of the archipelago nation, near the potential flashpoints of the South China Sea and Taiwan.

"It is not a partnership of convenience but rather 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. It stands as evidence of our continuous effort to enhance the cooperation, dedication, and mutual intentions that strengthen the interoperability of our forces," said AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr.

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According to the AFP, at least 100 French Navy personnel will participate in the Balikatan exercise 2024 for the first time.

The AFP will send 5,000 personnel, mainly from Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) and Western Command (WESCOM), to join the Balikatan activities.

From the US, around 11,000 personnel will participate, including 3,700 US Marines, 1,200 soldiers, 4,000 US Navy personnel, 400 airmen and Air National Guardsmen, as well as 750 US Special Operations forces.

The Australian Defense Force also plans to deploy around 150 personnel.

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"Balikatan represent more than just a shared military readiness, it embodies the deep spirit of collaboration and partnership that has defined the enduring alliance between the United States and the Philippines for decades," Embassy Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. Ewing said during the opening ceremony.

Among those who attended the opening ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo were United States (US) Embassy Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. Robert Ewing as the Guest of Honor and Speaker representing the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Her Excellency Marykay Loss Carlson, alongside AFP Chief of Staff, General Romeo S Brawner Jr.

Balikatan 2024, which encapsulates the spirit of unity and shared responsibility, epitomizing the enduring partnership between the Philippines and the United States, began today until May 10th.

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