Filipino and American soldiers are now preparing for the 32nd repetition of the annual US-PH Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercise. An alliance focusing on humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement and environmental protection.

Live Fire Exercise During Balikatan 2013. Image credit: U.S. Pacific Command
Live Fire Exercise During Balikatan 2013. Image credit: U.S. Pacific Command

This year’s joint military drills will take place in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Panay, and Palawan, that will officially open on April 4 and will run until April 15.

The first phase of the drill had its soft opening yesterday, launching construction and medical engagements in Panay and Palawan.

Five school buildings including residents in the two islands benefited from yesterday’s joint activities of the Filipino and American troops. Philippine-side exercise spokesman, Capt. Frank Sayson said.

A beach landing will be conducted in the capital town of San Jose in Antique, by the combined US and Filipino troops to capture an “illegally occupied area by foreign forces in Panay.”

“Throughout the joint exercises both forces will be working together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines to meet annual training requirements and enhance techniques, tactics and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces,” Sayson said.

“One of the main joint operations for this year’s exercise will be the conduct of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response,” he added.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP), militaries from 11 other countries –  Japan, India, South Korea, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste – have been invited to observe this year’s Balikatan exercises.