What is the Balikatan exercises?
Balikatan Exercises are joint military exercises conducted by the Philippines and the United States. It comes from the word BALIKATAn which means “Shoulder to Shoulder”.”It aims to improve the armed force of each nation and to further strengthen its diplomatic as well as military relationship.
Unlike other countries in Asia, a lot of people in the Philippines oppose the Balikatan Exercises. Being from the Philippines, I have been interested with the Balikatan ever since it started. I would devour every news about it. I feel proud just by seeing our Armed Forces together with the United States Armed Forces. Though poorly equipped, they do their best to make themselves better by attending these exercises. These exercises help our troops (both US and Philippines) have training and experience. They teach us, we teach them. I once saw a picture of an AFP instructor teach US Personnel with a Filipino martial arts called, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali. While they teach us about their equipments and their tactics. I am really proud of the Filipino soldiers who are all doing their best even with poor equipment and relying mostly on combat experience.
Now, what are the benefits of the Balikatan Exercises? To start, one benefit is that we gain training on modern equipment (in case we acquire them LOL), battlefield tactics in a modern warfare scenario, amphibious landings and naval exercises. Next, we receive some of their used equipments (which I assume are still in good condition, weee!), we also receive civic military aid like school buildings, medical missions and feeding programs. They also help in search and rescue missions and humanitarian relief operations during calamities and the biggest benefit of the Balikatan Exercise that I could see is the presence of the United States Armed Forces, which prevents other Asian countries from pushing us over (not with Uncle Sam standing beside us).
I have said that some people are opposed to the Balikatan. Sometimes I could see people walking in the streets carrying banners like; “No to Balikatan Exercises” or “US Troops Out Now!”, which makes me wonder, what did the United States did to us for them to deserve this kind of treatment? It also makes me wonder how much of the people there are present because of free food (LOL). Is it because they invaded us and tricked a few years back? Is it because of that Smith – Nicole Case in Olongapo? Or maybe because the United States carry nuclear weapons (which I doubt) and have nuclear powered ships, though the only nuclear powered ship I can remember that entered the country is the USS George Washington (CVN – 73). Or maybe because the United States is a threat to their mountain going communist allies. Whatever the case, I don’t think having US presence in the Philippines is bad for us. It is in fact beneficial since we have free schools, free medical assistance, free training and hopefully free equipment.
To convince you on this matter, I shall cite some instances of how the US have helped us.
If you can remember last November 25, 2007, two of our S211 jets went to the Spratly Islands to look for a fishing boat that capsized. An hour or so later the lead plane went home and reported that his wingman and the co – pilot is missing. A US Navy P-3 Orion from Clark Air Base was scrambled to the area to look for them and if found to help the Philippine navy ships and planes to its location. Sadly, after a lot of sorties, the pilots are not found nor is there any sign of their aircraft.
If you could also remember the time when Superferry 9 capsized and sunk near Zamboanga, US Forces in the area immediately went to the rescue aiding the Philippine Navy and providing bigger ships and faster rescue crafts.
Also, during the Ondoy Onslaught (as well as Super Typhoon Juan), US Forces provided us with amphibious vehicles, trucks, helicopters and manpower to help us in search and rescue and humanitarian operations (we struggled with NCR, they helped the whole of Luzon).
I can’t fathom why there are a lot of opposition to these Exercises. But I can’t blame them, everyone has his/her own opinions. I have stated mine now I rest my case.
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/31stMEU)