Balikatan 33 Strengthens U.S.-Philippine Defense Partnership through Counterterrorism and HADR Training

U.S. Soldiers train alongside Philippine Soldiers during counterterrorism training in support of Balikatan 2017 at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, May 9, 2017.
U.S. Soldiers train alongside Philippine Soldiers during counterterrorism training in support of Balikatan 2017 at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, May 9, 2017.
U.S. Soldiers train alongside Philippine Soldiers during counterterrorism training in support of Balikatan 2017 at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, May 9, 2017.

Manila, May 19, 2017 — After 12 training days in the Philippine summer heat, thousands of service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military finished this year’s rigorous Balikatan training exercise and now stand more prepared to respond to terror threats and natural disasters in the region.

Philippine and U.S. forces completed another successful Balikatan exercise, building on a long and productive history of joint military exercises that enhance interoperability, strengthen partnerships, and improve disaster response and counterterrorism capabilities.  The teamwork of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces ensures a more rapid response to natural disasters and manmade crises, saving lives, and helping the Philippine people.

“Our nations face an increasingly complex and volatile security environment,” said Ambassador Sung Kim.  “Now more than ever, our armed forces must work together closely.  Exercises like Balikatan build upon the long and productive history between our two militaries and ensure that we are always ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of our lives, our shared values, and international rules-based order. ”

During Balikatan, Philippine and U.S. forces conducted training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, small unit tactics, counter improvised explosive devices (IED), maritime interdiction, and amphibious raids.  In addition, Philippine and U.S. service members practiced ship to shore movement of military personnel and equipment, air operations, and aid distribution to bolster disaster response capabilities.

In the communities of Dulaq and Tapaz in Capiz, Ormoc in Leyte, and Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Philippine and U.S. service members constructed new classrooms and community buildings and renovated existing structures.

In addition to the new construction, the U.S. supplied communities in Luzon and the Central Visayas region with over $400,000 of emergency readiness equipment and aid.  U.S. and Philippine military medical teams taught community members basic lifesaving skills, disease prevention, and physical and dental hygiene – all critical during times of crisis.  To help prepare for a natural disaster hitting the region, U.S. troops coordinated with local municipal leadership to identify locations capable of supporting relief operations and helped develop crisis response plans.

In this year’s Balikatan, the Philippines and the United States continued to collaborate with regional partner nations: forces from Australia and Japan participated in all major training events, and the AFP invited military forces from the U.K. and ASEAN nations to be part of the International Observers Program.