U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Charge d’Affaires John Law, Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana,
and senior Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command representatives participate in the closing
ceremony of the Balikatan Exercise. (Photo by: PAOAFP)

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States Armed Forces concluded the 36th Balikatan Exercise at the general headquarters of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Friday.

Major events were held in Col. Ernesto Ravina Airbase in Tarlac, where combined Air Force and Special Operations forces conducted close air support training to increase interoperability across the joint forces.

“The successful conduct of this year’s Balikatan Exercise 36-2021 has definitely brought us a step closer towards our goal of capacitating our forces, and as such, will consequently contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region,” AFP Chief of Staff Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement released by the US embassy.

Sobejana was joined by Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana; US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law; Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the commander of the AFP education training and doctrine command and exercise director; Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, assistant deputy chief of staff for training and education and assistant exercise director; and Col. Aaron Brunk of the U.S. III Marine Expeditionary Force, officer in charge for exercise support group.

“Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, both Filipino and American forces were able to achieve the objectives of this year’s Balikatan Exercise – to train together on defense and security efforts, leveraging on the capability, experience, and strength of both militaries’ long standing friendship,” Arevalo said.

Law said the exercise showcased the strength and resolve of the Philippine-US alliance.

“These exercises demonstrate and improve our ability to jointly respond to crises. But training is never over. We will continue to advance our military-to-military partnership in pursuit of our shared commitment to mutual defense in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

AFP Northern Luzon Command Battle Staff and US Indo-Pacific Command representatives also conducted a bilateral staff exercise in Clark, Pampanga, while Philippine and US Special Operations forces conducted a Bilateral Staff Academic Seminar in Taguig.

To mitigate the spread of Covid-19, academic discussions and subject matter expert exchanges were held virtually.

The Philippine Air Force and U.S. Pacific Air Forces held a virtual “Global Health Engagement” and other virtual training sessions on various air operations and capabilities.

As part of their humanitarian and civic assistance activities, Philippine and US service members completed the construction of two classrooms and a day care center in Plaridel, a classroom in Atimonan, and a health clinic in Mauban, all within Quezon Province.
Balikatan is a Tagalog term for “shoulder-to-shoulder,” which the AFP said embodies the alliance and friendship between the Philippines and United States.

The exercise officially opened on April 12 and was conducted in Northern and Southern Luzon for two weeks. About 225 US military personnel and 415 AFP personnel participated; all of whom followed health and safety protocols, according to the US embassy.  Jade Veronique V. Yap