The Philippines is open to expanding the annual Balikatan exercises with the United States to include other allies, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said during the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.
“We really explore possibly expanding the bilateral Balikatan exercises into a multilateral exercise,” Galvez said.
“In the future, we might be expanding it with other allied nations,” he added.
In previous Balitan exercises, small contingents from Australia have joined the military training, while Japan has sent personnel as observers.
In late April, close to 18,000 Filipino and American troops, along with over 100 Australian soldiers, concluded the largest-ever Balikatan exercises.
During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to Washington last month, the US and the Philippines released their new defense cooperation guidelines that include moves toward real-time sharing of military information and greater coordination “within the framework of the alliance to face regional and global security challenges.”
Washington and Manila agreed to conclude by the end of 2023 an intel-sharing framework, known as a General Security of Military Information Agreement.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored the “enduring strength” of the PH-US alliance and the shared commitment of the two countries.
“For decades, the Philippines has been an indispensable friend and ally to the United States,” he said.
“The recently concluded largest and most complex iteration ever of Exercise Balikatan included more than 17,000 troops in the Philippines, the United States, and Australia, training side-by-side across air, land, sea, and for the first time, cyberspace,” the US Defense chief told President Marcos.