By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.
SORSOGON CITY (BicolToday.com/13-March2012)- A sort of homecoming for Lt. Gen. Jessie Diaz Dellosa when he visited the province yesterday accompanied by top military officers and welcomed by public officials led by Governor Raul Lee was the atmosphere inside the provincial gymnasium. Dellosa, a native son of Sorsogon but was raised in Lucena City assumed the top AFP post December of last year.
In his remarks during the presscon, he clarified that the scheduled Balikatan exercise on April 16-27 in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea will be stage in Philippine waters allying fears of a saber rattling strategy to other claimant countries in the disputed territory. Dellosa admitted that 4,500 US troops will participate and it will be the first time that partner Asean nations will compliment the exercise. The AFP will field 2,500 of their own troops. When queried if the presence of the American troops will raised protest from Vietnam and China, Lt. Gen. Dellosa said that areas of the exercise are all Philippine territory. Beside after the exercise American troops will be shipped out of the country.
The military drill will test the interoperability in the conduct not only in the traditional military training but on non-traditional aspects to needy communities, referring to humanitarian assistance and disaster training which the 28th Balikatan series intends to achieve, he added.
Stressing the need for the exercise, Dellosa revealed that the upgrading of the defense capability of the armed forces is necessary because of its archipelagic concerns of the Philippine territory.
When made to expound his assertion, the AFP Chief of Staff said that closer military ties with the US will secure a stable Asia-Pacific region echoing the statement of the American embassy when it said in a press statement “that the exercise will build meaningful relationship not only between our militaries, but also among communities and first responders.” He is not perturbed by the concern of the Chinese government for the exercise is a legitimate right of the armed forces and the government for it is within the Philippine territorial waters.
The strategic location of the dotted seascape of the Spratly chain of islands is a contentious issue among claimant countries whose assertions are overlapping the territories of others. China did flex its muscles when it constructed military structures in the contested area, while Vietnam fired-up protest with the activities. The tension sent jitters to smaller Asean countries, prompting security upgrading of military equipments of the AFP.
The Balikatan series is an offshoot of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 which made use of Philippine territory as forward bases of the United States. Clark Field and Subic Naval Bases becomes staging points for strategic campaign during the Vietnam War. The operation of the bases then was covered by the RP-US Military Bases Agreement. The nationalist and progressive groups at that time took turns in denouncing the abuses and the one-sidedness of the treaty prompting its abrogation by the Philippine Senate when it was reviewed for extension. BicolToday.com
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