Makati City

PH-US war games renew friendship at crucial time

Katherine Visconti
Take a peek at the war games that have mobilized at least 4,500 US troups and 2,300 Filipino soldiers and understand what the military exercise means in the global context

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – Philippine and American forces practice gunning down enemy targets and reclaiming hostile territory as part of the yearly military exercises called Balikatan.

But is it a show of friendship or a threat to would be enemies? 

The games happen to coincide with rising tensions in the Scarsborough shoal where Chinese and Philippine ships refuse to withdraw.

Chinese experts believe China is the imaginary target of the exercises. 

However the Philippine and US military say the timing of the joint trainings is purely coincidental. 

Balikatan has been going on for 28 years, it’s one of our allies in the pacific and one we continually try to maintain military to military relationships with. 


196th Infantry Brigade, US Army

Still some Filipinos worry that their former colonizer is using the games as a pretense to re-establish permanent bases. 

However the two armed forces practice separately and with their own equipment to ensure operations can be sustained independently.

Filipino soldiers say their guns are more dated and they communicate on a lower frequency with older devices. 

So after the drills both sides craft communications strategies that work on a budget.  We need to see what they have and how to use it and quick it because our problem is still defense budget and how we can maintain it.

50th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army

Despite the stigma that the learning is only one way, US forces benefit from the Philippine forces adaptability and dexterity in the tropical terrain.

They’re very ingenuitive, for example there was a shortage of blank adapters and they have definitely come up with a technique to still fire their weapons safely will a homemade type blank adapter. I’m very impressed by how they move in the woods at night. They’re very quite. They’re very direct, very quick.

196th Infantry Brigade, US Army

The practical exercises fit well in the U.S. Defense Department’s new 2012 strategy to strengthen key partnerships in the Asia-Pacific.

The China Daily reports that China is reinforcing its own partnership with Russia by staging joint navel drills.

While it may be just symbolic, Balikatan – which means standing shoulder to shoulder – suggests a willingness to join fists in a tense global climate.

Katherine Visconti, Rappler Nueva Ecija.

(Videography and editing by Katherine Visconti) –