MANILA -- Constant training on counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) is always relevant and beneficial to military forces conducting such maneuvers and drills, US "Balikatan" exercise director, Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, said.
"Despite the fact that this is not a large-scale conventional force, a portion of 'Balikatan' this year, the counter-terrorism (training) is legitimate. It's real, its something we're doing together and I think that continued training on that is beneficial for both of our nations. HADR is always relevant and I think especially as typhoon season (draws near) across the region, our ability to respond and help neighbors has never been more important," Nicholson said shortly after the opening ceremonies on the annual military exercises.
"Balikatan" 2017 features mostly high-impact HADR drills, which include rescuing people trapped in a collapsed structure during a massive earthquake and landing relief units and goods in a typhoon-isolated area.
HADR is one of the missions President Rodrigo Duterte wants the AFP to be proficient in, along with counter-terrorism.
When asked whether US troops, 2,600 of whom are participating in "Balikatan", are feeling let down due to the exercises' focus on HADR and counter-terrorism, Nicholson said this is not the case.
"I can tell you that every Marine, sailor, soldier, man coming to the Philippines for the exercise, is not disappointed. They are looking forward to it. Again, as I said, HADR and counter-terrorism are two critically important areas of concern for both of our nations, for all other nations, so I think there's a lot of work to be done," he said.
A total of 2,800 Filipinos and 80 military personnel from the Australian Defense Force are also participating in the 12-day exercise.
"There's a lot of sharing of techniques and tactics and procedures so we're excited by the work that we are going to do, and yes absolutely, we think (that) in the years ahead, there will be different focuses for 'Balikatan', so I'm confident of this year's success," Nicholson said.
The "Balikatan" exercises formally began on May 8 and will end on May 19. (PNA)