WATCH: Speeches at U.S.-PH Balikatan 2017 opening ceremony
MANILA, Philippines – Officials of the Philippines and the US celebrated a long history of defense cooperation at the opening ceremony of the Balikatan 2017 on Monday, May 8.
Balikatan is the biggest of dozens of joint training and exercises between the US and Philippine militaries. President Rodrigo Duterte threatened last year that he will scrap the war games, but he was persuaded to let it continue.
The focus of the exercises was shifted to humanitarian assistance and disaster response and fighting terrorism, a deviation from recent years which focused on maritime security and territorial defense.
Here are the speeches during the opening ceremony held inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
- Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana highlights the need for global cooperation in fighting terrorism.
- US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim says Balikatan is an "important exercise" that has become a "meaningful embodiment of strong partnership" between the Philippines and the US.
- Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ariel Abadilla reads the message of the country's top diplomat Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo.
- Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año underscores the long history of cooperation between the two treaty allies, as far back as the World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
- AFP Central Command chief Lieutenant General Oscar Lactao, Balikatan Exercises 2017 co-director, says climate change makes it imperative to train on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
- US Marines Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, Balikatan Exercises 2017 co-director, says the US military recognizes the need to improve capabilities on disaster response.