PH, US troops' live fire exercise in Laoag promotes combat readiness

By Leilanie Adriano

May 6, 2024, 8:25 pm Updated on May 6, 2024, 8:27 pm

<p><strong>JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES</strong>. 'Balikatan' 2024 executive agent Col. Michael Logico briefs observers of the joint exercises at the La Paz sand dunes in Laoag City on Monday (May 6, 2024). The exercises will culminate with a maritime strike on May 8. <em>(Photo by Leilanie Adriano)</em></p>

JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES. 'Balikatan' 2024 executive agent Col. Michael Logico briefs observers of the joint exercises at the La Paz sand dunes in Laoag City on Monday (May 6, 2024). The exercises will culminate with a maritime strike on May 8. (Photo by Leilanie Adriano)

LAOAG CITY – Joint forces of the Philippines and the United States military showed their prowess in a counter-landing live fire exercise held at the Metro La Paz dunes in this city on Monday.

Using high-powered arms to thwart a simulated invasion in the coastal waters of Ilocos Norte which is located near Taiwan, about 200 soldiers took turns "defending" the shores of Metro La Paz as they launched Javelin missiles and fired howitzers and machine guns to prevent an enemy attack.

The live exercise was set last year in the Ilocos waters but it was moved to Zambales due to unforeseen events including some logistical concerns, which at that time, have not been resolved yet.

After a year of planning and preparation, "Balikatan" 2024 executive agent Col. Michael Logico told local reporters they decided to return to Ilocos Norte due to the exponential value of the location.

“The waters in Ilocos Norte provide the best training venue for both our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the United States Armed Forces not to mention, it has better weather conditions compared to other areas,” said Logico.

He said this year’s US-Philippines Balikatan exercise has evolved from being a tactical unit training venue to an operational level which means more complex activities and complicated exercises were undertaken to improve the combat readiness of all service components involving the Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.

In a separate interview after the live fire exercise, US Marines Lt. Gen. Michael Cederholm, commanding general of 1 Marine Expeditionary Force and of the joint task force Balikatan, said the exercises aim to improve the forces' operation alongside each other and were not directed against a specific adversary.

“We don’t do this for any third party. We don’t do this for messaging. We do this to create interoperability,” Cederholm said.

He said Balikatan is designed to prepare both the Filipino and American troops to defend Philippine sovereignty. "If anyone has any question about whether we’re ready, we answered that today. We’re ready. And we always will be,” he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Exercise Director Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine recognized the critical component of the Balikatan Exercise to enhance interoperability and readiness in safeguarding stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The successful execution of this exercise underscores the strengthened cooperation between the Philippines and the United States in defending our shores. With every iteration, we continuously leverage the valuable insights and expertise gained to ensure regional security and stability,” Licudine said.

Smaller contingents are also located in the coastal towns of Burgos and Pasuquin where a village health center is being constructed in Barangay Davila as part of the exercise’s humanitarian project for the community.

Some 600 combined forces of the Philippines and the United States are participating in the exercises which will culminate with a “maritime strike” on Wednesday in the coastal waters of Metro La Paz.

Huge success

Cederholm also touted the activity as a “huge success”.

"The weapons were spot on, they were literally hitting the targets, which were pretty small, the fields of fire were very effective, they were overlapping but they were conducted in a safe manner, there was a layer of defense that started way out, worked it ways all the back in the shore and then to chase them back off as we repel the attacks of high effective manner," he added.

He said this activity is a "great opportunity" for the Philippines to beef up its defense capabilities, as part of the implementation of its Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)