Thursday, April 26, 2012

Balikatan 2012 Ends in High Note

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City— The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Armed Forces (USAF) will conclude tomorrow the Balikatan 2012 (BK12) after two weeks of military exercises, civic action, humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) operations involving the two countries.

The closing ceremony that will be held at the Tejeros Hall of the AFP Commissioned Officers Club here at Camp Aguinaldo will cap the third Balikatan that focused on HADR training. The joint exercise featured Civil-Military Operations activities, including the Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) where engineers from the AFP and USAF constructed five school buildings in Palawan.

The beneficiaries of ENCAP were Tagbarungis Elementary School and Inagawan National High School in Brgy Tagbarungis, Kandis III Elementary School in Brgy Sta Bacungan, Sta Cruz Elementary School in Brgy Sta Cruz, and Buena Vista Elementary School in Brgy Buena Vista all in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Other Community Relations activities were also held including the Futbol Clinic with the Philippine Azkals in Camp Aguinaldo, Basketball rehab and hoops with the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Clark Airfield, Futbol Clinic with PAF in Zambales Halfway House, Futbol Clinic in Fort Magsaysay Parade Ground, Carpentry/Masonry Training in Fort Magsaysay, Student Tour in Clark Airfield, and Army/Navy Sports Challenge in Subic Bay Athletic Complex.

BK12 kicked off with a Senior Leaders’ Seminar (SLS) on HA/DR that focused on experiential exchanges to further improve operations, procedures, and policies on emergency disaster responses. The SLS pump primed the Command Post Exercises that involved participants from Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

The most notable presentation came from Captain Yuzo Shibata of Japan Self Defense Force who gave his country’s disaster response mechanisms and experiences, including the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

BK12 also featured the boat raid in Palawan that simulated an actual port and base recovery exercise. It involved troops from the USAF and the AFP aboard the BRP Laguna that later released 12 rubber boats about four to five miles off the shore of Ulugan Bay.

A series of free medical, dental and veterinary services were held in Palawan that started on April 9 up to April 27 as part of the Civic Action Programs. Included also in the activities were medical trainings for rural health workers, a medical symposium, and a combat lifesaver course.

Soldiers from both countries also paid tribute to the fallen heroes of World War II in a Wreath Laying Ceremony attended by 7th Infantry Division Commander BGen Alan Luga and US Army Pacific Command Deputy Commander MGen Roger Matthews at Pangatian Shrine in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.

Among those who are expected to attend the closing ceremony are AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie D Dellosa; US Exercise Director Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen; PH Exercise Director RAdm Victor Emmanuel Martir; Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; and US Ambassador to Manila Harry K Thomas. Representatives from the Senate and House, Department of Foreign Affairs, Diplomatic Corps, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, and other government agencies are also expected to attend.

 “I am truly grateful of the success of the Balikatan 2012. The Table Top and Field Training Exercises (FTX) have opened up new avenues and widen the horizon for new opportunities for international participation and partnership in ensuring regional security and stability,” Gen Dellosa said.

“As the curtain closes down on this year’s Balikatan, I would like to express my gratitude to the American soldiers and foreign partners who gave their valuable time to share their experiences, best practices, and different approaches in dealing with various types of situations and security challenges that the country might confront in the future,” Gen Dellosa added.

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