Philippines, U.S. Start Exercise Balikatan 2016


Exercise Balikatan 2016 opened here April 4 in a ceremony attended by government officials and senior U.S. and Philippine military leaders. 

The official party including government officials and military leaders from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States, stand together for a photo at the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016, aboard Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Filipino, is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This year marks the 32nd iteration of the exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada)
Philippine and U.S. government and military leaders pose for a photo at the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016 at Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada
The official party including government officials and military leaders from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States, stand together for a photo at the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016, aboard Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Filipino, is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This year marks the 32nd iteration of the exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada)
Exercise Balikatan Opening
Philippine and U.S. government and military leaders pose for a photo at the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016 at Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada
Photo By: Sgt. Erik Estrada
VIRIN: 160404-M-QQ799-159

Balikatan, a Filipino term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” is an annual bilateral exercise between Philippine and U.S. military forces that focuses on partnership, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, Philippine capability development and military modernization. 

“Balikatan brings our armed forces together in bilateral activity that will not only validate our procedures in joint military operations, but more importantly, will strengthen our longstanding camaraderie and friendship,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, Western Command commander and the exercise director for Philippine forces.

Long Partnership

The Philippines and U.S. have been treaty allies and longstanding defense cooperation partners, dating back to their Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. 

Flags from both nations are retired, during the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016, aboard Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Filipino, is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This year marks the 32nd iteration of the exercise.
The U.S. and Philippine flags are retired during the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Philippines, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder," is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada
Flags from both nations are retired, during the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016, aboard Camp Aguinaldo, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Filipino, is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This year marks the 32nd iteration of the exercise.
Philippines, U.S. begin Balikatan 2016 at Opening Ceremony
The U.S. and Philippine flags are retired during the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2016 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Philippines, April 4, 2016. Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder," is an annual bilateral training exercise focused on improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada
Photo By: Sgt. Erik Estrada
VIRIN: 160404-M-QQ799-153

“All of us being here today demonstrate an ironclad commitment to each other and our respective peoples,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Toolan, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and the exercise director for U.S. forces.

“Today, we truly stand side-by-side,” Toolan said.

Approximately 5,000 U.S., 3,500 Philippine and 80 Australian Defense Force personnel will take part in the 32nd iteration of the exercise. This year’s Balikatan will focus on three simultaneous events through one single scenario across the Philippine islands, Luzon, Palawan and Panay.

Balikatan focuses on training and enhancing the capabilities of the AFP, U.S. and Australian armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that could endanger the public’s health and safety,” Toolan said. 

Officials said joint forces will be conducting humanitarian civic assistance projects to improve interoperability between the participating nations and improve the local community as well as a simulation-supported bilateral event, force integration training and an operational event at Crow Valley, Clark Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Subic Bay, and Antique Bay in Panay.

“Balikatan represents our security alliance to the Philippines,” said Philip S. Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines. “The skills learned at this exercise will serve both of our countries well, whatever challenges faced in the future.”