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Balikatan 2005 Kicks Off

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050228-02
Release Date: 2/28/2005 10:38:00 AM

By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Terry L. Rhedin, Balikitan Combined Joint Information Bureau

MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Of Staff Gen. Efren L. Abu declared Exercise Balikatan 2005 officially opened Feb. 21 during a ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The 21st annual exercise is a bilateral, multiservice event designed to improve planning and interoperability to enhance military capabilities against armed attacks, including those from terrorist threats, as well as increasing readiness to respond to natural disasters.

A top priority will be joint cooperation in training to conduct humanitarian and civic assistance projects. Members from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force will be working side by side with their AFP counterparts.

The exercise, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, will improve combined planning of U.S. and Philippine military forces. It is one of many ongoing activities under the framework of Republic of Philippines (RP)-U.S. military security cooperation, and demonstrates U.S. resolve to continue the commitment to train, advise and assist the AFP to build capacity to counter terrorism. Other programs include support for comprehensive defense reform; security assistance modules for counter-terrorism training; operations intelligence fusion; subject matter expert exchanges; education programs; logistics, engineering, equipment, maintenance and helicopter programs.

Approximately 300 U.S. personnel and 550 AFP personnel will participate. Balikatan 2005 is the 21st in the series of these exercises. The term Balikatan is a Tagalog word, which means shouldering the load together. It characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise.

Medical Civic Action Projects planned include distributing medical supplies, seeing patients, and checking on animal health in the typhoon impacted area of Quezon province and in Laguna province.

Engineering Civic Action Projects feature the construction of an economically vital 1.2 kilometer farm-to-market road connecting the towns of Alima to San Buenaventura, as well as building five classrooms for the San Buenaventura High School. Much of the labor and funding for this construction was donated by the local government and volunteers.

Bilateral, combined exercises like Balikatan 2005 and ongoing security assistance programs in the Philippines build capability and strengthen working relationships with U.S. Armed Forces. The results build readiness to respond effectively to natural disasters, such as RP-U.S. military humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in December 2004 for the residents of the storm-ravaged provinces of Aurora and Quezon provinces.

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