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U.S. and Philippines Shoulder-to-Shoulder during Balikatan 33 Opening

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Manila, May 9, 2017 — U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim, Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ariel Y. Abadilla, and representatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and U.S. military officially opened Balikatan 33 yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo.  The 33rd iteration of Balikatan, scheduled from May 8 to 19, will take place at multiple locations in Luzon and the Visayas region.

 

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Balikatan 33-2017 incorporates high value training events designed to enhance the capabilities of both AFP and U.S. armed forces.  The training focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counterterrorism operations in order to improve response effectiveness and speed in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

 

US_Embassy_Balikatan2017

From left: Lieutenant General Oscar T. Lactao, U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ariel Y. Abadilla, General Eduardo M. Año, and Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson pose shoulder-to-shoulder at the opening ceremony for Balikatan 33 at Camp Aguinaldo

 

Philippine and U.S. forces began work in mid-April for Balikatan 33-2017 through community engagement activities in Panay, Leyte, and Samar, including the renovation of five schools and community medical engagements with local residents.

 

“No nation can face today’s challenges alone,” said Ambassador Kim.  “Whether a natural disaster ravages part of the world or a man-made crisis shocks a community, our two militaries can deliver much stronger responses together.”

 

This year’s exercise will have AFP and U.S. forces partnering to improve their counterterrorism capabilities in order to build safer communities and work towards the eradication of global terror networks.  During Balikatan, U.S. and Philippine forces will conduct operational and counterterrorism training exercises in diverse areas of expertise, including live fire advanced marksmanship, counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), maritime interdiction, and amphibious raids.

 

In this year’s Balikatan, the Philippines and the United States will continue to collaborate with regional partner nations, and the AFP has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the International Observers Program, including South Korea, East Timor, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

 

Ambassador Sung Kim
Balikatan Opening Ceremony
Camp Aguinaldo
May 8, 2017

 

“Good morning and thank you. Secretary Lorenzana, Under Secretary Abadilla, Ambassador Ishikawa, General Año, Lt. Gen. Lactao, Lt. Gen. Nicholson, and our other distinguished guests, it is my great honor to be here with you today.

 

I want to first thank all the men and women in uniform who have spent many months planning the training events for Balikatan. These complex, multilateral training events require tremendous coordination. I applaud everyone’s commitment and hard work.

 

I also want recognize the great leadership of Secretary Lorenzana, General Ano and their colleagues at DND and AFP for making Balikatan possible.

 

We are here today to open a key bilateral engagement between the U.S. and the Philippines that addresses global challenges. We recognize the need to work together to overcome the daunting challenges posed by international terror networks. We also understand that bilateral disaster response training can save lives and help rebuild devastated communities.

 

No nation can face today’s challenges alone. Whether a natural disaster ravages part of the world or a man-made crisis shocks a community, our two militaries can deliver much stronger responses together.

 

The lessons we take from Balikatan this year will allow us to respond together to the next disaster more quickly and more effectively.

 

Through counterterrorism training during Balikatan, our forces exchange critical skills needed to address our shared struggle against terrorism.

 

Training shoulder-to- shoulder, as friends, partners, and allies, our two militaries also build trust and relationships that will help them deal effectively together with the full range of challenges here in the Philippines and beyond.

 

This is obviously a very important military exercise. From my perspective, it’s much more than that. I believe Balikatan is a very special and meaningful embodiment of our robust bilateral relationship. It reflects not only our strong military partnership but also the deep friendship between our two peoples, our mutually beneficial economic ties, and of course our shared history and interests.

 

So I thank everyone who contributed to make this year’s Balikatan possible. And as I look forward to productive and successful training events for the next 12 days, I am confident Balikatan-2017 will reinforce the deep and lasting commitment among our armed forces to each other and for a peaceful and secure world. Thank you. Salamat po.”

 

This article was originally published by U.S. Embassy in the Philippines
U.S. and Philippines Shoulder-to-Shoulder during Balikatan 33 Opening

 

 

Media release by: U.S. Embassy in the Philippines
Posted by: Marcelle Villegas 

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Photo source:
Top photo – from U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

 

Acknowledgement:
Thank you to Ms. Emma Nagy and Mr. Kevin O’Connor of U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

 

 

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