U.S. and Philippine militaries stand shoulder to shoulder

The enduring strength of the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship can be viewed from many angles, from trade and investment to education and cultural exchanges to working closely together when natural disasters strike.

Nowhere is the closeness of the alliance more evident than in the allies’ robust military ties. They stand together today as firmly as they did in World War II when American and Filipino soldiers fought side by side to turn the tide in the Pacific.

Six years after the war’s end, the allies signed a mutual defense treaty that recognizes an armed attack in the Pacific area against either party would be a threat to both countries’ peace and safety.

During the annual joint training exercise known as Balikatan — Filipino for “shoulder to shoulder” — and other exercises, “our two militaries build effective and ready forces capable of responding to security challenges by focusing on a variety of missions, including mutual defense, counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

U.S. and Philippine servicemen doing construction work on a building (Lance Corporal Nelson Duenas/U.S. Marine Corps)
U.S. and Philippine military engineers and other service members built a classroom in Tapaz, Philippines, during the 2017 Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder”) joint exercise. (Lance Corporal Nelson Duenas/U.S. Marine Corps)

The two allies also work closely together to combat terrorism. Philippine police helped U.S. authorities track and eventually capture the mastermind of the original World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The U.S. military provided intelligence and reconnaissance support to the Philippine military when it drove Islamic militants out of the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao in 2017.

More recently, the United States contributed $26.5 million in nonmilitary counterterrorism aid to Philippine law enforcement agencies, including support for investigating and prosecuting terrorism cases and programs to counter radicalization and violent extremism.

These joint efforts are “another powerful example of the depth and breadth of our relationship as friends, partners and allies,” Kim said.

James Mattis standing next to Delfin Lorenzana in a doorway overlooking steps (Master Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence/U.S. Air Force)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis welcomes Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana to the Pentagon. (Master Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence/U.S. Air Force)

At the Pentagon on September 18, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana reaffirmed the mutual defense partnership.

Mattis also thanked Secretary Lorenzana for his country’s contribution to maritime security through its trilateral air and maritime patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.