‘Balikatan’ showcases PH’s new military assets: AFP

by Philippine News Agency | APRIL 08 , 2022

MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Gen. Andres Centino said this year’s “Balikatan” exercises served as an opportunity for Manila to showcase and test the capabilities of military assets that it has acquired and developed in the past few years.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of this year’s exercises on Friday, Centino said these include the new air assets of the AFP like the S-70i Black Hawk and the AgustaWestland helicopters, the FA-50 jet fighters, the “Super Tucano” attack aircraft, and naval assets including the new landing dock, and the ground assets like the newly refurbished armored personnel carriers and artillery.

“I am sure that both Armed Forces have mutually benefited with you learning from our experiences in dealing with insurgents and terrorists and us learning from your skills in the use of modern technology,” the AFP chief said.

He said the annual military drills between participating Filipino and American troops highlights the importance of cooperation and interpersonal relationship between the two militaries.

“Our drive to train and work together solidifies our friendship and allows our forces to succeed together, more so to learn from each other and build camaraderie that I am sure will last even beyond this exercise,” he added.

The AFP chief also called the annual “Balikatan” exercise one of the country’s proactive measures in dealing with unprecedented and real-world challenges.

“This exercise effectively capacitates our Armed Forces as we fulfill our respective responsibilities in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region,” he added.

“Balikatan” which means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “shouldering the load together” is an annual joint and combined exercise hosted by the AFP and US Indo-Pacific Command conducted to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences.

Participants in this year’s “Balikatan” exercises are 3,800 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 5,100 US military personnel — the largest number of combined personnel of the two militaries in the annual exercise since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020.

Aside from Centino, also present in “Balikatan” closing ceremonies in AFP general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City were Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, Philippine Exercise Director; Brig. Gen. Joseph Clearfield, US Exercise Director representative; and Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna.

“The experience gained from the Exercise ‘Balikatan’ complimented our security cooperation endeavors and help enhance existing mutual security efforts. Although there were limitations brought about by the pandemic, it is highly commendable that the exercise pushed through and generated a favorable outcome,” Gaerlan said.

US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava attended as a guest of honor and speaker.

“After two years of a global pandemic, US and Philippine forces have come together to complete one of the largest Balikatan exercises ever held. This is a testament to the strength of the US-Philippine alliance and the shared priorities of our countries,” Variava said.

Meanwhile, Clearfield, who is also US Marine Corps Forces Pacific deputy commander, said the completion of this year’s “Balikatan” is a clear example of both militaries’ shared commitment to advancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“As a result of our mutual efforts, our militaries have grown together in friendship, and we are better prepared to respond as one cohesive team to any crisis or challenge,” he added.

The Philippine and US exercise forces employed more than 50 aircraft, four ships, 10 amphibious craft, four high mobility artillery rocket system launchers, and four Patriot missile systems during “Balikatan” 20222.

This year’s exercise also included approximately 40 personnel from the Australian Defense Force.

The AFP and US military also conducted multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects, including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques. (PNA)



Source: Philippine News Agency