(Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Around 251 military personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command conducted free-falling exercises over Barangay Mapalad in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija last March 28 and 29.

In a statement Wednesday, AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Jorry Baclor, said the participants are from major units of the Special Operation Forces (SOF) of the two nations and are "Military Free Faller and Airborne" qualified.

"The 51 Philippine and US Military Free Fallers and 200 Static-Line Airborne parachuted towards the Drop Zone Royce located at Barangay Mapalad, Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija," he said.

Baclor said this event, which is called the "Balikatan Friendship Jump'' aims to enhance individual, unit, joint, and combined SOF airborne capabilities.

The jumpers jumped from two US MC130 aircraft while civilian and military observers watched. "Aside from the jump, the activity was also highlighted by wing exchange and meaningful sharing of experiences by the participants," he added.

Around 3,800 AFP members and 5,100 US military personnel -- the largest number of combined personnel of the two militaries in the annual exercise since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020.

During the "Balikatan" 2021, only 226 American and 415 Filipino military personnel participated while "Balikatan" 2020 was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year's "Balikatan" exercises started on March 28 and will end on April 8. (PNA)