PHL, US start 36th ‘Balikatan’ exercises

The 36th iteration of the annual “Balikatan” exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military formally started on Monday.

“The 36th iteration of Balikatan (BK 36-2021) kicks off today 12 April, to last until 23 April 2021,” AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.

He said last year’s “Balikatan” exercises were canceled due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

He added that this year’s “Balikatan” will be conducted with stringent health protocols in place and a reduced number of participants.

“This erstwhile annual event pushes through with fewer training events that will not entail face-to-face engagement. Further details to follow,” Arevalo said.

Earlier, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said that around 700 US troops will be participating in this year’s “Balikatan” along with 1,000 Filipino military personnel.

He added that the two-week maneuvers will consist of “virtual and physical” exercises while minimal contact will be observed in physical exercises. PNA.GOV.PH