MANILA, -- Units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started its pre-"Exercise Balikatan 2016" activities by conducting preliminary work on five different school buildings and community medical engagements in Panay and Palawan Wednesday.
This will lead to information exchanges and live training events over a 12-day period.
Construction activities in Panay and Palawan are expected to be completed by the end of March.
“Balikatan” in Filipino means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-US alliance.
Opening ceremonies are slated for April 4, followed by several training events throughout the 12-day exercise while closing ceremony is scheduled to be held April 15, said "Balikatan 2016" spokesperson Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson.
"Balikatan' is an annual Philippine-US military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Filipino-American alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection.
Work on Panay and Palawan demonstrates cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the US consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement.
Both sides are committted to train, share information and provide support to each other through a range of military operations.
Through the joint exercises, Filipino and American forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines in order to meet annual training requirements, and enhance techniques, tactics, and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of the two military forces.
Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Western Command, Northern Luzon Command, and Sothern Luzon Command), and other major Philippine military camps such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay to improve their ability to work together, partnering in capabilities and plan follow-on operations.
One of the main operations for this year’s exercise will be the implementation of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response.
"Exercise Balikatan 2016" is the 32nd iteration of the annual exercise. 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.
Mutual forces from the Philippines, United States and Australia will participate in all major exercise events including the simulation supported event (SSE), operational event (OE) and humanitarian civic assistance (HCA).
The AFP has invited the following nations to observe BK 16 activities: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, South Korea, and Timor-Leste.
US Army soldiers from the 78th Aviation Battalion, Camp Zama, Japan, unload an UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a C-5 Galaxy of the Air Mobility Command at Clark Air Base during BALIKATAN 2002.