San Antonio, Zambales
April 26, 2023

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. witnessed the Combined Joint Littoral Live Fire Exercise of the Philippines-United States of America (USA) armed forces conducted in San Antonio, Zambales.

The activity was the main event of this year’s Balikatan Exercise that kicked off last April 11 with over 17,600 participating Filipino and American military personnel — the 38th iteration of Balikatan and said to be the largest to date. This is to enhance their joint and combined capabilities in maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire exercise, urban operations, aviation operations and counter-terrorism, among others.

According to Colonel (Col.) Michael Logico, Balikatan 2023 Spokesperson and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Lead Planner for the exercise, the Balikatan is one of the AFP’s biggest and most visual line of efforts in terms of mutual defense board and security engagement board, and serves as an opportunity to demonstrate the interoperability between the Philippines’ armed forces and its treaty partners, especially on this case, with the U.S. Military.

“Through this activity, we are assuring our Filipino people that we are committed to our mandate and the only way for us to be faithful to our job is to keep on training so that we are always at that high level of proficiency,” said Col. Logico in an interview.

His counterpart, Col. Jackson Doan, U.S. Military Senior Representative for Balikatan 2023, noted that the Balikatan is significant in terms of the amount of complexity and the dynamic interaction between the Philippines and US forces, as well is in incorporating new techniques and procedures that have been first time tested in practice within the Philippines.

“This combined joint live fire exercise really encompasses the cementing of the bond in the relationship between the US and the Filipino country. It really does take to the fact that ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ is a term, but in reality, it’s the way that we live,” Col. Doan conveyed.

Running from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm on this day, the Combined Joint Littoral Live Fire Exercise featured a sinking exercise with the Philippine Navy’s (PN) BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), a World War II-era corvette decommissioned in 2021. During the drill, the vessel is treated as an adversarial vessel and targeted to be sunk, as positioned 12 nautical miles off the coastal waters of San Antonio.

In the course of the activity, the Commander-in-Chief also observed the firing of a rocket launcher called the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) that can be used to hit distant targets and other demonstrations performed by all forces present.

‘Balikatan’ which means ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ in English, is an annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and U.S. military to strengthen their bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust and cooperation that are built over decades of shared experiences. It highlights four major events including Command Post Exercise, Cyber Defense Exercise, Field Training Exercises and Humanitarian Civic Exercise.

The Balikatan Exercise will conclude on April 28, 2023.