Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘BALIKATAN IN A BUBBLE’ MARKS 1ST PH-US MILITARY EXERCISE IN 2 YEARS

- By Jeannette I. Andrade @jiandradeI­NQ

The 736 Filipino and 225 American soldiers participat­ing in this year’s Balikatan military exercises have been placed in a training bubble as a precaution against COVID-19.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo,

Armed Forces of the Philippine­s spokespers­on and Balikatan director, said that except for one drill, most of this year’s activities would be limited to interopera­bility tabletop exercises and expertise exchanges.

The only “kinetic” drill set for the 36th Balikatan exercises will be the simulated close air support or Simcas and live fire event to be held on April 20 at the Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Pampanga. It will not require face-to-face interactio­n among participan­ts.

“It will simulate the need to employ air capability while observing the procedures involved during call for fire,” Arevalo said.

“What we’re training for is the respective roles of the US Armed Forces and the AFP in responding if the Mutual Defense Treaty is triggered or activated,” he added.

Until April 23

At the same time, there will also be subject matter exchanges pertaining to air and maritime interdicti­on, as well as COVID-19 pandemic response.

The exercise scenario will likewise involve the dispatch of aircraft from the American base in Okinawa, Japan, in response to a call from ground forces for fire support.

This year’s exercises will run until April 23. There was no Balikatan in 2020 due to the pandemic.

In a message to reporters, Arevalo said, “The intent of every iteration of Balikatan [was] for both armed forces to train together on defense and security leveraging on the capability, experience and strength of their friendship.”

According to him, “Balikatan is done annually to ensure interopera­bility in terms of command, control, computers, communicat­ions, intelligen­ce, surveillan­ce reconnaiss­ance, and subject matter expert exchanges.”

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