U.S. begins annual Balikatan exercise in Philippines

Okinawa-based U.S. Marines are among thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines now participating in Balikatan, an annual Republic of the Philippines ~ U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

The exercise began last week and runs through April 17th, with more than 8,000 combined Philippine and U.S. personnel participating in the exercise, which is taking place at various locations throughout Luzon.  During Balikatan 2013, Philippine and U.S. service members will conduct bilateral humanitarian civic assistance projects while military medical personnel offer free medical, dental and veterinary care. Military engineers will also construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities during the exercise.
BK13 is the 29th iteration in a series of recurring bilateral events hosted annually by the Philippine and U.S. militarys’ focusing on the longstanding Philippine-U.S. partnership in cooperation and our collaborative commitment to region. This year, the Philippines and the United States have invited a number of personnel from other regional partner nations to attend a portion of the exercise.
The exercise began with a ceremony presided over by the chief of staff for the AFP Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, Jr., and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario.”Balikatan” in Filipino means “shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance.
Demonstration of live-fire drills take place beginning tomorrow at at Crow Valley Range in Tarlac.  Bilateral live-fire field training exercises and community relations events are taking place at Fort Magsaysay, while Air operations and an aircraft static display are scheduled at Clark Field. On Sunday, a dedication ceremony of a 60-meter suspension foot bridge at Barangay San Pascual in Zambales takes place, followed on Monday by a Multinational Maritime Disaster Response Tabletop Discussion.