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Australian forces stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines in humanitarian relief exercise

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Australian Defence Force personnel are participating in a major regional exercise in the Philippines focusing on humanitarian and disaster relief.

Exercise BALIKATAN is an annual Republic of the Philippines-United States bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

Some 31 ADF personnel have already joined the exercise and will play a supporting role in Exercise BALIKATAN on the islands of Luzon and Palawan.

A further 37 ADF members will deploy on May 8 to the exercise area, bringing the total Australian Defence Force commitment to 68 personnel.

The focus of BALIKATAN 2014 will be on humanitarian activities throughout the Bicol Region of southern Luzon Island.

Military medical personnel will offer medical, dental and veterinary care. Military engineers will construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities.

Participating forces will also conduct command and control exercises from CampAguinaldo in Manila and HQ Western Command (Armed Forces of the Philippines) on Palawan with a series of scenarios focusing on maritime security and disaster relief.

Wing Commander Nicholas Pratt from the Royal Australian Air Force will lead the Australian contingent and said the ADF had been called on to support a number of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the region in recent years.

“We saw from Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST last year how important it is to practise scenarios that require us to be part of a multi-national response effort,” Wing Commander Pratt said.

“Exercise BALIKATAN presents a perfect opportunity for us to work closely with our regional allies to respond quickly and work together effectively to provide military support in the event of another natural disaster or crisis.”

This is the 30th annual bilateral exercise. ‘Balikatan’ in Filipino means ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ and characterises the spirit of the exercise.

“The ADF is a professional and highly trained force, capable of delivering effective support to these types of exercises and humanitarian assistance engagement with partner nations,” Wing Commander Pratt said.

The exercise will conclude on 16 May 2014.

Media note: More information about Exercise BALIKATAN is available at:

http://www.facebook.com/exercisebalikatan

http://www.youtube.com/exercisebalikatan

Media contact:

Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999