Friday, April 1, 2011

'Balikatan 2011' is all about regional cooperation, friendship, Navy chief says

By Joel C. Atencio, Friday, April 01,2011

MANILA, April 1 – Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Alexander P. Pama said Friday the "Balikatan 2011" exercise between the Philippines and United States military forces is all "about regional cooperation and friendship among allies."

Set on April 5-15, it is the 27th bilateral exercise conducted annually to serve as a venue for joint and combined training between the Philippines and U.S. military forces.

“On a much larger scale, let me emphasize that this annual exercise endeavors to enhance regional cooperation, promote friendship and strengthen mutual relationships between the participating countries, as well as sustain professional skills of participants from both forces at every level,” Pama said.

The Navy FOIC was the guest of honor during Friday afternoon’s send-off ceremonies of the “Philippines-United States Balikatan 2011” at the Navy headquarters along Roxas Blvd. in Manila.

Pama said this is the huge value-added imperative that "Balikatan exercises have provided both our countries through the years of its existence."

The Navy chief specifically acknowledged the various programmed activities designed to develop the country’s maritime security capabilities by conducting series of symposia, practicals and other at-sea events that focus on anti-insurgency and terrorism activities.

“It is my great honor to join all of you here today, as we send-off all members of the PN contingent to the second phase of the Balikatan 2011 exercises," he said.

The Navy will send the destroyer escort Rajah Humabon (PF-11), the flagship of the PN which will ferry two company-sized personnel composed of sailors and marines, a team of navy sea, air and land (SEAL) team and a group of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) as participants of the activity.

Two teams of Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) equipped with an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), M-35 and Humvee trucks and other equipment that will be used for the Balikatan exercise were displayed during the send-off ceremony.

Also present during the event was Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy commander of the Philippine Fleet and the PN exercise director of the Balikatan Exercise 2011.

Pama further said this year’s Balikatan Joint Exercise aims to improve US-Phl combined planning, combat readiness, and interoperability while enhancing security relations between the Philippines and the U.S.

“Balikatan” is a Filipino word which means "shoulder-to-shoulder" that characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise.

For this year, the military exercises will focus on revitalizing the interoperability of the Philippines and U.S. militaries in post-conflict response through the conduct of disaster rehabilitation and rural development projects.

Activities will include Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP), Medical Action Program (MEDCAP), Dental Civic Action Program, Veterinary Civic Action Program (VETCAP), and Community Relations (COMREL) activities which will be conducted in Central Luzon.

Five barangays in Central Luzon will benefit from the ENCAP activities. The combined engineering forces will construct two-room school buildings in each barangay while MEDCAP, VETCAP, and COMREL activities will also be conducted in these areas.

The Balikatan Exercise 2011 also aims to formulate and assess concepts for the Unilateral Defense Plan (UDP) through a Staff Exercise and Command Post Exercise (STAFFEX/CPX) at the Western Command in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Further, it will also evaluate concepts of transition from UDP to Bilateral Defense Plan (BDP), and to a post-conflict response in a STAFFEX/CPX that will be held at the Northern Luzon Command in Camp Aquino, Tarlac City, Tarlac.

A Field Training Exercise (FTX), a core component of Balikatan 2011, will also take place to help stimulate the capabilities of the major services of the AFP.

The FTX, including ground forces, sailors, marines, and airmen from different AFP units and U.S. forces, will hold simultaneous field training exercises in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija; Basa Air Base, Pampanga; Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga; Crow Valley Range, Tarlac; Naval Station L. Gantionqui, Zambales; Sangley Point, Cavite City; Marine Base Ternate, Cavite; and Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. (PNA) scs/JCA

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