The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that representatives from 14 countries will be coming to join as observers in the upcoming Balikatan 39-2024.

The exercise, which includes the United States Armed Forces, is scheduled to take place from April 22 to May 10

The AFP said observers will be coming from Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Western Command (Wescom) Public Affairs Office chief and spokesperson Captain Ariel Joseph Coloma also stated that, as per pronouncements from higher office, this year’s iteration of the bilateral military exercise between the Philippines and its biggest ally will be the “biggest so far, surpassing even last year’s exercise.

“We are expecting more than 16,000 joining the Balikatan nationwide,” Coloma said.

He, however, said he cannot give exact figures of how many will participate from Wescom’s Joint Operational Area (JOA).

“The activity is very fluid that’s why, we cannot give you the exact number as to how many will be involved in the Wescom JOA,” he said in a press briefing on Thursday, April 18.

The AFP likewise stated that aside from Filipino and US troops, the Australian Defense Force will paricipate in the joint sail maneuvers while the French Navy will also join for the first time.

Aside from Wescom, participating units of the AFP are the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and Southern Luzon Command (Solcom)

Meanwhile, Wescom also released a statement saying the stage is all set for the biggest war games in its JOA.

The statement said US forces have already begun establishing logistics infrastructure for key training events.

Activities that will be conducted within Wescom’s JOA include Field Training Exercise (FTX) or Combined Joint All Domain Operations (CJADO) training. Wescom will be the hub of two major CJADO events – Training on Maritime Key Terrain Security Operations and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Rapid Insertion (HIRAIN) Operations in the towns of Balabac, Rizal and San Vicente

Participants will also engage in simulations, live-fire drills, and tactical exercises, aimed at enhancing cooperation and boosting the capabilities of the AFP and the US military.

Multilateral Maritime Exercises involving ships of participating nations on the other hand will also be conducted within the Philippines’ Exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Aside from the training exercises, the joint forces are also performing several Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) projects ahead of the official kick off ceremony on April 22 such with the construction of a health care center in Barangay Punta Baja, Rizal, and the upcoming civil-military engagements in the area also aim to provide immediate and direct benefit to the local communities.

Meanwhile, Wescom chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos expressed gratitude and solidarity with the participating contingent of the BK 39-24.

“Together, we will strive for a successful exercise that not only strengthens our bilateral ties but also brings benefits to our country and our allies,” Carlos said as he welcomed the participants.