PNP Joins the 2023 US-Philippines Balikatan Exercise
On April 11, 2023, the Philippines once again opens its doors for its key ally—the United States of America, to hold the country’s yearly Balikatan Exercise. This year’s exercise is deemed to be the largest among the previous joint-military activities of both countries with over 17, 600 participants. It is also the 38th iteration of the said exercise with a variety of military activities and field training events held in different venues in the archipelago, including a bilateral command post exercise.
The Balikatan Exercise is a clear manifestation of the strong alliance between the United States and the Philippines, and their commitment to help one another in times of crisis, and in addressing problems and challenges relative to national security. During the said exercise, both countries’ armed forces, including coast guard and police force and other uniformed personnel, joined together to share their respective best practices relative to the emerging modernization of the armed forces and the increasing complexity of warfighting in the recent years, and to collaborate with one another towards the fulfillment of the shared mission concerning the national territory.
The said alliance traced its origin back on August 30, 1951, when the Philippines and the United States of America signed the Mutual Defense Treaty. It is the longest standing defense treaty in the Indo-Pacific region, wherein, both countries share their utmost commitment in promoting regional peace and stability, and in helping one another in times of aggression and any possible threat to national sovereignty through continuous bilateral collaborations and joint military trainings and exercises. This Mutual Defense Treaty became the blueprint of the creation of the Annual Bilateral Balikatan Exercises.
The Philippine National Police also takes part in this year’s Balikatan exercises as the PNP Maritime Group, through its 2nd Special Operations Unit headed by Police Lieutenant Colonel Rae Charles DR Enrile, Commander, under the leadership of Police Brigadier General Romaldo G. Bayting, Director, PNP Maritime Group, successfully participated in the 10-day training facilitated by Captain Kenneth Herman, of the Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT) 8312, US Marine Special Operations Command.
Among the activities which are jointly conducted by the Nation’s Peacekeeper with its US counterpart were the Life Saving Techniques and Basic Procedures in Tactical Combat Casualty Care; Close Quarter Battle; and Practical Exercise of Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS). The training was held at the Joint Maritime Law Enforcement Training Center in Sitio Magarwak in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City.
The field training and final execution of VBSS initiated by the US Marines, US Commando Regiment, US Coast Guard and Australian Coast Guard, together with the Philippine Marines and Coast Guard onboard Police Gun Boat NAIAD 001 at 2nd the SOU Headquarters in the seawaters of Honda Bay in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, were the highlights of the said training. These were also accompanied with actual VBSS trainings conducted onboard motorized vessel Palawan Coast at the port area of Barangay Liwanag in Puerto Princesa City.
The Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) is a critical skill required for military and police personnel who are involved in maritime operations. The ability to board and search a vessel quickly and effectively is crucial in preventing illegal activities and in maintaining security in the maritime waters. The said exercise includes scenarios involving boarding of vessels suspected of engaging in illegal activities. This is to enhance the capabilities of the Philippine troops in carrying out VBSS operations, particularly in challenging situations.
Due to the country’s geographical location, the Philippines has always maintained its aggressiveness in its territorial waters, standing on its toes against any form of illegal maritime activity. In addressing these challenges, all the necessary skills and appropriate equipment should be provided to its maritime personnel in order for the country to effectively combat and prevent such illegal acts. The Philippine National Police, with its Chief, Police General Benjamin Casuga Acorda Jr., through its Maritime Group, will never cease nor be lenient with its mission and sworn responsibilities in securing the country’s territorial waters and in maintaining a peaceful and healthy maritime environment.