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Balikatan 2013 to undertake community projects in Zambales

IBA, Zambales—A military exercise between the Philippines and the United States scheduled in this province and other parts of Luzon next month is expected to benefit local communities through humanitarian-assistance projects to be implemented under the bilateral training program.

According to a statement from the United States Embassy in Manila, participants in Balikatan 2013, which will take place from April 5 to 17, will undertake joint humanitarian-assistance projects in communities throughout Zambales.

The volunteer-assistance projects will include the construction and repair of school rooms and other infrastructure in selected communities, with preliminary work on community-infrastructure projects beginning in mid-March.

Meanwhile, military medical personnel from both the Philippine and American contingents will provide free medical, dental and veterinary care during the two-week exercise period. 

The Balikatan program, named from a Filipino word that means shoulder-to-shoulder, is an annual Philippines-US military bilateral-training exercise and humanitarian- assistance engagement meant to improve inter-operability between Philippine and American military forces, and lately, as a venue to train for humanitarian disaster response.

The US Embassy described the program as a “signature element of our two nations’ robust treaty—alliance relationship” and stressed its focus on “training both the US and Philippines armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.”

In this year’s exercise—the 29th such activity to be held so far—Armed Forces personnel from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training to improve interoperability and contingency planning.

As in past trainings, the military exercises shall be held at the Subic Bay Freeport, Crow Valley in Pampanga, Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

The US Embassy said the two parties have also invited “a small number of personnel from other partner nations in the [Asia-Pacific] region to attend a portion of the exercise.” 

Last year, local community groups also benefited under a special Balikatan program wherein participants learned earthquake-rescue techniques during training held at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Members of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s fire and rescue team, the local chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross, and the Olongapo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council participated in the activity, along with some members of the Hawaii National Guard.

 

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