Balikatan 2023 officially ends
MANILA, Philippines — The annual war games between the Philippines and its long-time ally the United States officially ended on Friday.
A closing ceremony was held in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, attended by Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Andres Centino and US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson and other key officials.
The highlight of the Balikatan was the sinking of a mock enemy target — a decommissioned Philippine Navy corvette, BRP Pangasinan — in San Antonio, Zambales, 235 kilometers away from Scarborough Shoal last April 26.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. attended the live fire drill and the sinking of the decommissioned ship.
Centino said the 38th iteration of the military exercise was a “success” but not without challenges.
“We’ve had a very successful Balikatan this year, there were a lot of firsts,” Centino said in a chance interview with reporters after the closing ceremony.
“There are some hitches that we need to improve,” he said, noting that there were delays and a slight problem with coordination.
The 38th iteration of Balikatan saw the biggest number of troops in its history with 17,600.
“Balikatan” is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together.”