Balikatan 2017 (BK 2017) started last Monday, May 8, 2017 in Fort Ramon Magsaysay. “Balikatan” is a Filipino term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together”.A simple opening ceremony was

held for the Balikatan Exercises.  Major General Angelito M De Leon, Commander of


the 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, Philippine Army, gave a short message during the opening rites, welcoming both the American and Filipino soldier participants of BK 2017, and emphasizing the importance of the joint military exercises. The Visiting Forces Agreement signed in 1998 between the ahilippines and the American government led to the establishment of the Balikatan exercises. The series of bilateral exercises is annually planned in response to the challenges and needs of each country, and designed to enhance the Armed Forces capability of both countries.Interoperability through combined training is the focus of Balikatan. This year’s 33rd Iteration of Balikatan will concentrate on humanitarian assistance, disaster response and counter-terrorism.Climate change has brought about several calamities that severely affected the lives of thousands of Filipinos. In response to this global occurrence, Balikatan 2017 will focus on the relief and response effectiveness of the participating nations, aiming to better equip rescuers with knowledge and skills  in the event of natural disasters that may endanger public health and safety.Enhancing the counter-terrorism capabilities of both forces is also a focal point for BK 2017 given the alarming rate of terrorist-related incidents both here and abroad.  As the threat of terrorism increases, the need to make communities safe and eliminate terror threats and its networks becomes paramount.In Fort Magsaysay and other AFP installations in Luzon, the Bilateral Service Interoperability Events (BilSIE) will be conducted. BilSIE caters to counter-terrorism events and land-based disaster relief operations.Bilateral exercises and security assistance program with the United States ensures that our combined staff planning are more responsive and efficient, and it increases our Armed Forces ability to quickly shift from a security role to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.More than preserving and strengthening the Philippine-US alliance, simultaneous conduct of BK 2017 will contribute to regional security and stability.BK 2017 will run for 12 days and will end on May 18. Several activities have been lined up and broken into simultaneous events which will be held in different locations within the Philippines. Approximately 2,800 AFP personnel and 2,600 U.S. forces will be participating in the exercises.



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