Philippines, US will hold live fire drills within West Philippine Sea in Balikatan
The Philippines and United States will hold a live fire exercise within the West Philippine Sea for the first time during the largest Balikatan exercise with 17, 600 expected to participate on April 11 to 28.
Col. Michael Logico, spokesman of the Balikatan, said aside from the US and Philippines, Australia will also join some drills while the Japanese Self Defence Force (JSDF) will come as observers.
"They (Australia) will be taking part in smaller events, from special operations... mostly smaller land-based exercises," he added.
Logico said the participants include 12,000 from the US forces, 111 Australian troops and more than 5,000 others from the AFP.
He said Japan will only join as observers as it does not yet have a visiting forces agreement with the Philippines.
"Japan, they would be observers... Well, we invited them pero they begged off because there is no existing (Status of Visiting Forces Agreement) SOVFA with them, so they will be observing just for now," he said.
Logico said previous exercises were inside Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base (CERAB), inside Fort Magsaysay (in Nueva Ecija).
''While we're still doing that, we are now going to be exercising outside the traditional areas where we're used to be operating on... part of it is we're going to do live fire exercises into the water," said Logico, director of Joint and Combined Training Center, Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) Education, Training and Doctrine Command; and spokesman of Balikatan 2023.
"We will just be exercising the Air Force and the Army but the Navy doesn't have participation because it's inside land, so we are doing it in the water so we can exercise all our service components," he added.
Logico said it is "going to be the first time" that the AFP will conduct live fire exercises at sea with the American forces.
He also stressed that the live fire exercise at sea that will be conducted in the water off Zambales is not meant against China.
"No it's not but we are here to practice, we are here to show that we are combat ready," he said.
"It's always been an interoperability exercise to test our concepts for maritime defense, for coastal defense and maritime domain awareness, so that is the theme of the exercise. All I can say is that every country has the absolute and inalienable right to exercise within our territory, we have the absolute, inalienable right to defend our territory," he added.
Logico said other exercises will also be conducted in areas of Casiguran, Aurora; Palawan and Antique.
He said aside from ships and aircraft the US forces will again use their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during the Balikatan drill while the AFP will feature their newly acquired frigates,FA50 fighter jets and the newly acquired artillery. Robina Asido/DMS