News: Balikatan 2012 officially opens
Story by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines -- Locked arm-in-arm, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States officially opened Exercise Balikatan 2012 at Camp Aguinaldo, Manila, April 16.
Balikatan, a Filipino word meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral exercise on its 28th iteration and the third humanitarian assistance/disaster relief focused exercise between the two nations.
“Balikatan has been going on for a long time, for nearly 30 years,” said Brig. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, 3rd Marine Division commanding general, Okinawa, Japan, and Balikatan exercise director for U.S. forces. “Longer than that has been the relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines. We are bounded by similar traditions, a shared history and common goals. While the nature of contingencies changes over time, our relationship remains.”
The primary purpose of the exercise is to improve combined interoperability and disaster preparedness. The exercise will focus on three main areas; a command post exercise in the national capital region including representatives from various countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, field training exercises around the country involving more than 6,000 troops overall and humanitarian civic assistance projects where teams will build five schools and provide medical and dental care to more than 22,000 people.
“In the next 10 days, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. participating forces execute their tasks of scheduled events for this exercise, we hope to provide the Filipino and American public an inspiring and heartwarming chain of events,” said Philippine Navy Rear Adm. Victor Emmanuel C. Martir, Philippine exercise director. “Our armed forces continue to work together for a secure and stable Asia-Pacific region – [displaying] their awareness and responsiveness to the needs of our people and that of our neighbors.”
Those also in attendance at the ceremony were Patricia Paez, Philippine Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Harry K. Thomas, Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Philippines; and Philippine Army Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa, Armed Forces Philippines chief of staff.