Troops from the Philippines and the United States will kick off next Monday a series of joint military exercises designed to hone their interoperability skills in fighting terrorism, including chemical attack, and disaster response, said a Philippine military officer on Thursday.
"Every year, we are trying to level up the training," Lt. Liezl Vidallon told reporters. For example last year, she said the focus is natural calamity. This year, she said the drills will focus on how to counter man-made calamities like chemical attack.
The U.S. and Philippines will work with regional partner nations throughout the "Balikatan" or "shoulder to shoulder" period.
Multinational forces from the U.S., the Philippines, Australia, and Japan will participate in all major training events this year. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has also invited Britain to observe training for the mitigation of post-disaster suffering.
Vidallon said the participants in this year's Balikatan Exercises will be dealing with new tactics, techniques and procedures and lessons learned from last year's joint training.
This year's joint exercises, slated for May 7 to 18, will be conducted in several locations in the Philippine main Luzon island.
Balikatan is an annual U.S.-Philippine multilateral military exercise focused on mutual defense, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.
Vidallon did not say how many American and Philippines troops are participating in this year's Balikatan exercises. About 5,400 from both countries took part in Balikatan 2017.