TAGUIG CITY, Philippines -- Filipino and U.S. service members gathered for the opening ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at the Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Taguig City, Philippines, Oct. 1.
PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy forces alongside members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations, across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.
“This year’s PHIBLEX is the 32nd iteration and it will be conducted in various locations,” said Maj. Gen. Alexander F. Balutan, naval inspector general for the AFP. “The major exercise events include field training exercises, a command post exercise and humanitarian civic assistance programs.”
According to Balutan, this year’s PHIBLEX will advance the Philippine-U.S. military-to-military relationship and interoperability through each major exercise event.
“The Philippine Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps are absolutely rock solid partners as we train in security cooperation within the region and specifically within the Republic of the Philippines,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commanding general. “We know this exercise.”
According to Kennedy, every year the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps get together, new lessons are learned, and in this ever-increasing complex security environment these lessons remind them of the serious business at hand.
“[Two years ago] nature intervened as Typhoon Yolanda bore down on the central part of the Philippines,” said Kennedy. “Our response occurred within a matter of hours and our interoperability happened almost instantly because we had just trained together over the course of [PHIBLEX 2013]…We understood each other’s capabilities, each other’s shortfalls and we were able to work together as a true team on behalf of the people in the stricken area.”
Kennedy also referred to the fact that this year marks the 64th year of the signing of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which directs that the U.S. and the Philippines come to each other’s aid if attacked.
“If anybody were to challenge the sovereignty of [the Philippines] their best friends within this region would respond within a matter of hours,” said Kennedy. “I assure you that this is not a hollow promise.”
According to Kennedy, AFP and U.S. service members participating in humanitarian activities in Palawan are really the highlight of the exercise since it’s an opportunity for them to interact with the Filipino community.
Kennedy took time to emphasize the value in training for the very thing Marines are known for - amphibious operations.
“The close interoperability and the capabilities highlighted during this exercise are the envy of many of the nations that do not have as robust a capability, acumen, and experience the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps enjoys,” said Kennedy.
In his closing remarks, Kennedy mentioned there is a whole generation of U.S. Marines and sailors that have grown up not having visited the Philippines, and views PHIBLEX as an opportunity to come to what could be considered their second home.
“They have spent their time in the Middle East and other places where our skills of ensuring the security of other nations are required,” said Kennedy. “We look very much forward to getting to know the Philippines again and consider you our closest friends within the Asia-Pacific region.”