OpinionsEcon 101Understanding Balikatan 2024

Understanding Balikatan 2024


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Balikatan literally means shoulder-to-shoulder, wherein one person or entity with the capability and the resources shares the burden of another who is having difficulty, and is in dire need of assistance.

This includes providing relief in the form of cash or kind to people struck by calamities, encapsulating the spirit of unity and shared responsibility, epitomizing the enduring partnership among allies,  ensuring that military forces are tactically-proficient, that capabilities and modernization efforts are mutually-compatible, strengthening military-to-military coordination.

The Balikatan exercises in the Philippines started in 1991, and was not directed at any particular country that time. The drills this time come at a time of growing tension in the South China Sea, which has seen China becoming more aggressive in asserting its nine-dash line claim, particularly against the Philippines.

Any joint military exercise is focused on inter-operability, or the ability of different units to work together,  a way to practice, making sure that military units from different countries know how to effectively work together in case of a crisis – be it disaster response or armed conflict.

Participants execute a range of complex missions across domains, including maritime security, sensing and targeting, air and missile defense, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defense, and information operations.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Balikatan exercises will cover external defense operations, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and inter-agency capacity-building.

Balikatan has three main components: Command & Control Exercise, Field Training Exercise, and Humanitarian Civic Assistance, covering a wide range of activities such as “joint all-domain operations, including vital maritime terrain protection, air assault operations, and reconnaissance activities.”

The Balikatan Exercise 39-2024,  which commenced on April 22  and lasts until May 10, involves over 16,000 soldiers from our AFP and the United States military. The soldiers will converge here for the largest annual joint training exercise between the two treaty-allies .

Aside from US and Philippine forces, soldiers from Australia and France will also be participating. Representatives from Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam will be here as well as observers. The Australian Defense Force and the French Navy personnel are participating in a multilateral maritime exercise or a joint sail.

It will be held across several locations in the Philippines, from the Northern Luzon Command, the Western Command, and the Southern Luzon Command’s areas of operation. The three commands collectively cover a wide expanse of Philippine territory and waters, northern Luzon, the waters of the West Philippine Sea, up to the southernmost Luzon islands.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian has reacted negatively to the recent Balikatan, and urged “relevant countries outside the region to stop stoking confrontation” in the South China Sea, and said that “China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and keep the South China Sea peaceful and stable.”

Let us all pray for peace.


Author’s email: [email protected]






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