US-Philippines 'Balikatan' war games ends

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Friday, May 16, 2014

FILIPINO and United States officials on Friday concluded this year's Balikatan exercises among their forces, claiming they are a better force to address "complex" "dynamic" security concerns.

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista declared the closing two-week exercise, which gave focus on maritime security, in rites held at the AFP general heaquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"Today's complex and dynamic security environment presents challenges that no nation or armed forces can face alone. These are the challenges of the 21st century and these include maritime security and climate change," said Bautista.

Philippines is locked in a territorial dispute with the aggressive China over Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. Also claiming the chain of islands and islets are Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

"This year's Balikatan demonstrated that the only way to overcome these challenges is for everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder in the spirit of global Bayanihan," the military chief said.

Bautista said Filipino and US "developed a platform for regional engagement, enhanced our military capabilities, learned from each other and advanced interoperability and capacity in joint planning execution."

"Likewise, the exercises emphasized that as friends and allies, the Philippines and United States will act in our collective capacity to safeguard international peace and ssecurity and to ensure that territorial integrity and sovereignty are respected," he said.

Bautista cited "big improvement" in this year's war-games, which opened May 5, as compared to the past year's activities.

"Better in terms of there is no accidents and we were able to achieve the objectives of the training," he said.

Bautista said the Balikatan exercise proved that the "enduring alliance" between US and Philippines "is a pillar for peace in Southeast Asia and the greater Asia Pacific."

At the same, Bautista sought "more ways to strengthen this alliance and ensure that it remains relevant, responsive and modernized."

"And may this alliance inspire the rest of the world to work shoulder to shoulder in global Bayanihan to address the challenges of the 21st century that we now all face," he also said.

In a message, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin congratuated both sides "for ably steering the successful conduct of this joint military exercise." Gazmin's message was read by undersecretary Honorio Azcueta.

"I am certain that this training program has honed the professional skills in various delicate aspects and facets of our combined and joint operational endeavors in the military," said Gazmin.

Gazmin said the knowledge the US and Filipino forces gained from the Balikatan exercise "will surely redound to the enhancement of your expertise in combined planning, combined readiness andinteroperability."

For his part, US deputy chief of mission Bryan Goldbeck said Balikatan is not only about live fire exercises and the boat raids both forces pursued.

Goldbeck said Balikatan is also about the people who develope frienship, camaraderie and ties on a person to person level.

"These are not just war games," Goldbeck also said, adding that US and Filipino troops also pursued civic action projects, and medical and dental missions in certain areas during the Balikatan exercise.

Balikatan 2014 was participated by 2,500 American soldiers and 3,000 Filipino troops. (VR/Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

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