US, Pinoy soldiers to join Balikatan exercises

Posted May 11, 2018

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana speaks during the opening ceremony of the "Balikatan 2018" in Quezon City, the Philippines, May 7, 2018.

Despite initial difficulty because of their unfamiliarity with urban warfare, Filipino troops quelled the insurrection with airstrikes, artillery fire and ground assaults with the help of US and Australian surveillance aircraft after five months.

These will be the largest joint drills since Duterte took office, though Filipino officials stress they're not aimed at China.

Reports last summer suggested that the country's military may have enlisted the aid of U.S. Special Forces without informing the president, who is wary of U.S. involvement in his country and has tried to forge closer ties with China and Russia. "This year, we will also train for man-made disasters like, for example, a chemical attack", she said in broken English.

The exercise was reintroduced amid China's intensified efforts to build military bases in those waters.

The drills will focus on defense cooperation, the fight against terrorism, and humanitarian and disaster response.

Among the activities lined up for the joint exercises include the Command Post Exercise (CPX), Joint Inter-Operability Event (JIOE), Combined Inter-Operability Event (CIOE) and the Humanitarian Civil Assistance (HCA).

Australia and Japan are also sending a total of 42 military observers to Balikatan.

Fighting in Marawi started on May 23, 2017, when Daesh-inspired members of the Maute Group and other local militant groups seized the Philippines' only Muslim city.

Troops will practice landing to retake occupied territories at a base on the South China Sea.

Lt. Gen. James Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Forces, and Balikatan exercise director for the US side, said that the Philippine troops had learned much from the Marawi experience and this was a chance to share some of the successful tactics.

"This is focusing mostly on countering terrorism... that will allow us to respond to a similar scenario in the future", Salamat said.

Nolcom assured the safe and successful conduct of the Balikatan as it coordinated with all the stakeholders in different sites in Northern and Central Luzon.