The Armed Force of the Philippines said that military exercises like the Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) are designed to enhance capabilities in responding to external aggression but not a way to show force. “The joint exercises are designed to increase our capability to defend our country from external aggression. It is to test how ready and how effective we can operate with our American allies in both humanitarian and security operations,” AFP-Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said as quoted by Reuters.

United States Armed Forces will be deploying 76 military aircraft for the upcoming 31st series of Balikatan Exercise which will start on April 20.

6,656 American soldiers, 5,023 Filipino soldiers and 61 Australian soldiers will participate. There will be three major events namely Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA), Command Post Exercise (CPX) and Field Training Exercises (FTX). Palawan-based Western Command commander Vice Admiral Aexander S Lopez will be this year’s exercise director.

“The higher strength of Balikatan 2015 for this year only reflects the Philippines’ and the United States’ growing commitment to enhance our capability to conduct joint military and non-military activities,” Lt. Col. Cabunoc said as quoted by Agence France-Presse.