PH, US coast guard units eye ‘Balikatan’
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the US Coast Guard (USCG) plan to conduct their own civilian version of the Balikatan joint military exercises between the Philippines and the US, an official said.
“The trend now is ‘white to white,’” PCG commandant Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said, referring to a “coast guard to coast guard” set-up.
“It will be better if we will have familiarity with the USCG in case there will be a scenario that assistance is needed. Our people would know what to do,” Isorena added.
The Philippine and US armed forces regularly hold Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) military exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), ratified by the Philippine Senate.
The difference is that the PCG and USCG remain civilian organizations, and do not engage in military exercises.
In his interview with reporters, Isorena added that the Balikatan exercise between the PCG and USCG has long been planned. He said he initially suggested this to the regional director of the USCG in Hawaii, Rear Admiral Cari Thomas.
Isorena said he hopes the PCG and USCG can conduct their joint maritime exercise next year.
This comes as the Philippines and China remain embroiled in a dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Many analysts see the maritime row as a proxy battle between the US and China.
The PCG is also mulling joint exercises with its Chinese counterpart. – Rappler.com