‘Balikatan 2014’ ends
With the 21st century presenting complex security challenges, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the only way to overcome these threats is by working “shoulder-to-shoulder” with allies.
Bautista made the statement at the closing ceremony of the “Balikatan 2014” in Camp Aguinaldo Friday morning after two weeks of combat and disaster-relief training.
“Today’s complex and dynamic security environment presents challenges that no nation or armed forces can face alone. These are the challenges of the 21st century, and these include maritime security and climate change,” Bautista stressed.
He added that the just concluded exercises showed that the only way to address these threats is for everyone to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, “in the spirit of global Bayanihan”.
“Through the exercises that we conducted, the Philippines and the United States jointly developed a platform for regional engagement; enhanced our military capabilities; learned from each other and advanced interoperability and capacity in joint planning execution,” he added.
“Likewise, the exercises emphasized that as friends and allies, the Philippines and the United States will act in a collective capacity to safeguard international peace and security, and to ensure that territorial integrity and sovereignty are respected.”
“The Balikatan 2014 once again proved that the enduring alliance between the Philippines and the United States is a pillar for peace in Southeast Asia and the greater Asia Pacific,” Bautista stated.
Over 7,000 soldiers – 4,800 Filipinos and 2,500 Americans – participated in the annual Balikatan exercise that started a week after the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the state visit of US President Barack Obama.
For a while, a contingent from the Australian Defence Force participated in the exercises which is now on its 30th year.
The exercise was conducted amid simmering tensions between Philippines and China over territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. But Philippine and US officials stressed Balikatan activities were not directed at any particular country.
US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Brian L. Goldbeck, for his part, congratulated the Filipino, America, and Australian troops for the success of the exercise.
“Balikatan is not just about our militaries. It is about our people and about the friendships, camaraderie and ties that develop on a person-to-person level,” he said.
Goldbeck noted that it is the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that “motivated the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942,… that kept the Philippines resistance fighting, … that brought peace to Mindanao, and the same spirit that responded to typhoon Yolanda.”
“And it is that same spirit that will keep our alliance moving forward into the 21st century,” he further said.
Meanwhile, BK14 Exercise Director for Philippines, Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye and his US counterpart, Major Gen. Richard Simcock II, deputy commander of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific said other countries are welcome to participate in the annual event.
“We don’t have a definite country yet but we are open to more participation,” said Magnaye, noting that since Australia started participating they will definitely be invited in the next Balikatan.
“The Asia-Pacific region is evolving, it’s evolving very very rapidly and large exercises like Balikatan need to also evolve at a commensurate rate… When it evolves and other nations are asked to come in and participate, we encourage that we look forward to the opportunity to work together with all nations within the nation” Simcock said.
Apart from the military exercises, the Balikatan also held a series of staff exercises in Camp Aguinaldo and the Western Command in Puerto Princesa in Palawan and humanitarian and civic assistance activities in various areas in the country.
Last Friday, a joint Philippines and US Marines amphibious drill was held at the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales. Combined live-fire exercises were also held at the Marine Base in Ternate, Cavite and in Crow Valley, Tarlac.
In Bicol, troops from the AFP Southern Luzon Command took the lead in the construction of a health center, two-room classroom building, water catchment system and concreting of sidewalk in Malobago Elementary School, and another one-room school building in Doña Mercedes Elementary School all in Guinobatan, Albay, among others.