Uncle Sam has been really active in the region lately, with the most relevant move being Balikatan 2023. Now, while Balikatan exercises are nothing new, the timing paints a clearer picture. There may be something more this time, more than just boosting each other’s military power and experience.
The Beauty of Balikatan Exercise
For those of you who aren’t familiar with military lingo, Balikatan is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together”. This characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
With our long shared history, the Philippines remains a crucial American ally. Our country receives the most military aid, supplies, and instruction from the US. Promoting regional peace and stability has always been a joint plan of the US and the Philippines. We did a two week Balikatan with the US in 2018 and that was a success.
The goal of Balikatan 2023 is to challenge both countries’ capabilities to operate at different levels and complexities. Balikatan exercises always provide unparalleled opportunities to demonstrate the strength and readiness of the Philippine-U.S. security alliance.
This year’s exercise include aspects of maritime and territorial defense. It also comes with other combat and non-combat components like counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Last month, there was a live-fire exercise that was held at the Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command. There where about 1,400 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen participated from both countries. The exercise comprised deploying ground- and air-based weaponry to locate, recognize, target, and engage a target ship.
Now, all of these are well and good, but is there a catch?
The Hidden Agenda
You see, a delegate for the balikatan exercise between the Philippines and the United States already explained that the allies’ largest-ever military drills are not targeted toward China or any other country. But is that actually so? Many are asking a valid question: Is the US simply dragging us into another one of their wars?
At this point, it may not even be much of a question. We’ve already made the deal with the US back in February which allows Washington to station military equipment and build facilities in nine locations across the country. This move by President Marcos, means only one thing: we’re going to fight alongside Uncle Sam if the fighting begins.