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PCG to join 2024 Balikatan Exercise

In a historic first, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will join the 2024 Balikatan Exercise between the Philippines and the US.

According to Chino Gaston’s Tuesday “24 Oras” report, Philippine, US, Australian, and French ships would also hold a joint sailing exercise in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, declined to confirm if the vessels will pass through the China-occupied features in the West Philippine Sea including the Panganiban Reef.

“The reason why we do exercises is to demonstrate our capability, kasama ang PCG,” said 2024 Balikatan Exercises Executive Agent Colonel Michael Logico.

“I do not discount the possibility that it also sends a message to our adversaries, to our friends, to our allies, and also like-minded partners. The message, actually, if you take it into totality is the main goal of the exercise objectives, which is to demonstrate the strength of the alliance and our willingness to defend our territory,” Logico said.

The 2024 Balikatan, which will run from April 22 to May 10, will be the biggest iteration of the annual joint military exercise with the participation of various government agencies and the armed forces of more nations.

It will be observed by several countries including Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

For its part, the US will deploy F-22 air superiority stealth fighter jets, AC 130 aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, Blackhawks, and possibly its F-35 fighter jets; while the Philippines will send out the BRP Antonio Luna and other newly procured military hardware.

The AFP had said that around 16,700 troops would participate in the exercise, with the addition of personnel from the Australian Defense Force and the Marine Nationale (French Navy).

“What’s also not included in the 16,000 is the participation of other government agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Information, Communications, and Technology (DICT), Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Presidential Communications Office (PCO),” said Logico.

The 2024 Balikatan will cover three main components: Command and Control Exercise (C2X), Field Training Exercise (FTX), and Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA).

These activities will be held in different geographical areas under the Northern Luzon Command, Western Command, and Southern Luzon Command.

But apart from enhancing capability at sea, the Philippine Army also said they will train in the use of medium-range capable missiles with the US.

“Part of the scenario will be the invasion and aerial access. 'Yan 'yung tinitingnan natin kaya naka-focus yung SALAKNIB for aerial defense,” said PA Spokesperson Colonel Louie Dema-ala.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. said, "Together, we speed up our march towards enhancing our military capabilities for maritime security alongside honing other competencies in order to effectively address the dynamic challenges across all domains."

Lieutenant General William Jurney, US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and U.S. Exercise Director for Balikatan 2024, expressed confidence that the capabilities of the troops involved will improve as a result of the exercise.

“Our combined capabilities with the Armed Forces of the Philippines are stronger than ever. Every day that we work and train together, the bonds between our people grow stronger, our capabilities grow stronger, our alliance grows stronger,” he said. — Sundy Mae Locus/DVM, GMA Integrated News