The US and the Philippines’ armed forces have commenced the 32nd Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines.

Around 5,000 US service members and 3,500 members of the Philippines’ armed forces, with nearly 80 Australian Defence Force personnel, and observers from 12 other nations are participating in the exercise.

Balikatan is a Philippine-US military bilateral training exercise held annually, and replicates the Philippine-US alliance focused on a range of missions, including humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection.

“The exercise is designed to increase interoperability through combined military operations.”

Balikatan is a Tagalog term for ‘shoulder-to-shoulder,’ and characterises the spirit of this bilateral Philippines-US exercise.

US forces will deploy their 3rd Marine division, elements of the 3rd Marine Logistics Group and the 1st Marine Air Wing, the Army’s 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, for this exercise.

US Defense Press Operations Director Navy captain Jeff Davis said: "The exercise is designed to increase interoperability through combined military operations and strengthen the long-standing relationship between the US and the Philippines.

"It focuses on three simultaneous events through a single scenario across the Philippine islands of Luzon, Palawan and Panay."

The Balikatan exercise will involve conducting operations to address disaster relief, crisis response training, and humanitarian civic action projects, including dental and veterinary services, and engineering civic access.

The fourth regiment of the US Marines has test-fired six non-explosive rounds using two M142 high artillery rocket systems during the exercise, according to a report by

Image: US personnel engaged during the exercise in Philippines. Photo: courtesy of Marine Corps photo by Cpl Rick Hurtado.