US, Philippines to hold ‘largest-ever’ military exercise across Luzon

US Embassy says such military drills strengthen ‘abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout Indo-Pacific region’.

US, Philippines to hold ‘largest-ever’ military exercise across Luzon

The US and Philippines will hold the “largest-ever” joint military exercise across the Luzon island from March 28 to April 8, the US Embassy in Manila said on Tuesday.

Some 5,100 US military personnel and 3,800 Philippine soldiers will team up for the exercise in the archipelago nation, according to a statement by the embassy.

The joint military exercise, known as Balikatan 2022, will focus on “maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief,” the statement said.

Exercises like Balikatan, the US embassy said, “strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region.”

The US-led Quad, a loose security alliance along with Australia, Japan, and India, aims to counter the increasing economic and military influence of China in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Washington has renamed the region as Indo-Pacific to determine its interests along with its Quad partners.

“Balikatan is a critical opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Philippine allies toward a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,’ as our Indo-Pacific Strategy calls for. The US is proud to continue our participation in this long-standing exercise,” said Heather Variava, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in the Philippines.

The Balikatan 2022, said the statement, is the “largest-ever iteration of the Philippine-led annual exercise taking place across Luzon.”

During the military exercise, the US and Philippine military will train together to “expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges,” said Jay Bargeron, major general of US 3rd Marine Division Commanding General.

Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan of the Philippine military said the military exercise “is a testament to the strength of the Philippines and US’ security relationship.”

During the joint military drills, the US and Philippine soldiers will also engage in multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques.

“Balikatan (2022) coincides with the 75th anniversary of US-Philippine security cooperation and a shared commitment to promoting peace,” said Bargeron. “Our alliance remains a key source of strength and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Hüseyin Demir

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