Philippine, US armies holding drill in Palawan
The Philippine and United States Army are conducting an exercise amid the recent directives of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries.
Philippine Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, said "the Philippine Army is now hosting the first iteration of the Philippines - United States Balance Piston 20-1 from January 26 to February 23, 2020."
"The Balance Piston 20-1, one of the annual training exchanges between the two countries, is composed of the participants from the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Philippine Army’s 18th Special Forces Company, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne)," he said.
The training is being held at the Philippine National Police Maritime Group Training Facility in Puerto Princesa, Palawan and at the Headquarters of the 18th Special Forces Company in Rizal, Palawan, he added.
Zagala said the exercise aims to strengthen the Philippine Army's counter-terrorism capabilities and to enhance interoperability with its US counterpart.
“The Philippine Army continue to support and conduct training with its foreign counterparts as it helps ensure that our troops get necessary exercise to enhance their capabilities in various fields," he said.
"It also helps develop and strengthen our cooperation with other armies in training and information exchange,” he added.
Zagala said to forge its bilateral cooperation the Philippine Army and the United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) also held the 8th Executive Steering Group Meeting in Taguig City on Wednesday.
Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay and USARPAC Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. John Johnson with other delegates discussed how the two armies will strengthen their defense capabilities through future engagements, Zagala said.
During the session, Johnson said everything they do should support the mutual defense training and demonstrate commitment.
"We learn together, we become more capable and we build trust,” said Johnson.
Zagala said Johnson also "mentioned their gains particularly in expanding USARPAC’s operational experience in an archipelagic environment such as the Philippines."
He said during the meeting "Gapay reiterated PA’s desire to boost its aviation, air defense, airborne, combat engineer, fires, sustainment operations, and cyber security capabilities as well as its combined arms training methods and doctrine."
“We have come prepared and determined to plan out the next actions that will further strengthen our alliance. I am confident that we are moving in the right direction towards ensuring that the alliance remains strong, dynamic and relevant,” Gapay said.
Zagala said interoperability functions from previous exercises were also discussed. Robina Asido/DMS