Australia, Japan participate in Balikatan exercises
MANILA, Philippines – Eight other militaries, including the armed forces of Australia and Japan, are in the Philippines to participate in the annual Balikatan exercises between Philippines and the US.
Up to 2,800 Filipino soldiers and 2,600 American soldiers are participating in the exercises.
Australia is the only other country, aside from US, that has a visiting forces agreement with the Philippines. It sent 80 of its soldiers to participate in special operations exercises, according to exercise director Lieutenant General Oscar Lactao.
Japan has a memorandum of defense cooperation and exchanges with the Philippines. It sent 20 of its forces to participate mainly in exercises on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Lactao said.
Australia and Japan, both allies of the US, are among the countries that have been helping the Philippines beef up its military capabilities.
In 2015, Australia donated 2 supply ships to the Philippine Navy.
In March 2017, Japan transferred to the Philippine Navy 2 TC-90 trasnport planes. (READ: Small planes for PH Navy signal Japan's growing security role)
The previous Aquino administration also wanted a visiting forces agreement with Japan, but this has so far not been raised in the new government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The other countries sent observers: United Kingdom, South Korea, Timor Leste, Brunei, and Thailand, Singapore.
This year's Balikatan exercises will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response and fighting terrorism. – Rappler.com