Friday, April 27, 2012

Usual ‘thank-yous’ marked end of Balikatan 2012

MANILA, Philippines – After 10 days of military drills, civic action, humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) work involving US and Philippine troops that drew warnings from China of possible armed confrontation, the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) 2012 close Friday at Tejeros Hall in Camp Aguinaldo.

The 28th Balikatan, and the third HA/DR focused joint  exercise featured Civil-Military Operations activities, including the Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) where engineers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States Armed Forces 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 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.

A Senior Leaders’ Seminar (SLS) on HA/DR was held that focused on experiential exchanges to further improve operations, procedures, and policies on emergency disaster response. 

The seminar involved participants from Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

The Balikatan also featured amphibious exercises in Palawan that simulated an actual port and base recovery exercise. It involved about a hundred  joint US and Philippine troops 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 to 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 Brigadier General Alan Luga and US Army Pacific Command Deputy Commander Major General Roger Matthews at Pangatian Shrine in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija

Among those who attended the closing ceremony were AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa; US Exercise Director Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen; Philippine Exercise Director Rear Admiral Victor Emmanuel Martir; and US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas. 

Representatives from the Senate and House, Department of Foreign Affairs, Diplomatic Corps, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, and other government agencies.

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

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