By Jaime Laude
MANILA, Philippines - It’s all systems go for the official opening of this year’s Balikatan joint military exercises between the Philippine and US armed forces.
Maj. Frank Sayson, Balikatan spokesman on the Philippine side, said the kickoff would be held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) main headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo tomorrow.
This year’s Balikatan would be the Single Scenario Concept (SSC) with top defense and military officials from both countries attending the ceremonies, he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año will be the guests of honor at the opening, with acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and US Ambassador Sung Kim also expected to attend.
Scores of foreign and local journalists, including more than a dozen media from China and Taiwan, would be witnessing this year’s Balikatan as it shifts towards Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) from previous purely military drills.
Sayson said the planners of this year’s Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) agreed that both Filipino and US forces must harness not only their fighting skills but also their disaster response capabilities.
President Duterte has ordered this year’s Balikatan to focus more on HADR activities instead of the usual war games.
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