SAN ANTONIO, ZAMBALEZ, Philippines (April 5, 2011) -- Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the U.S. military, the Philippine Department of Agriculture, and local volunteers worked together March 28-29, during a veterinary civic action project in San Antonio.

Free veterinary care was provided to improve the health of the local animals, and to assist local residents who depend on their livestock for their livelihoods. Care was divided between small animals treated with rabies shots, flea medicine and dewormer, and large animals treated with dewormer and vitamins.

"We want to make the Philippines rabies free by 2020, and this will help us get closer to that," said AFP Maj. Galahad Trabado, commanding officer, canine unit, General Headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo. "Balikatan is a good time for us to team up and go to remote areas."

The veterinary civic action project, or VETCAP, sites were selected by the local governments and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Trabado added.

"It's important for us to get the combined experience while we increase rabies resistance," said Staff Sgt. James Barclay, animal care specialist, Western Pacific District Veterinary Command. "In case of a disaster, our main concern, as veterinary personnel, would be disease control and this helps reduce the risk of disease outbreak."

The combined experience will improve military readiness for both Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military in the event of a natural disaster. While working together, participants were able to exchange knowledge and strengthen bonds.

"I was lucky to be selected to participate in this exercise," Trabado said. "It's important for us to be able to advance the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and U.S. partnership."

Members of the community were pleased with the United States accepting the invitation from the Philippine government to participate in Balikatan 2011.

"I speak for the entire barangay (local town) when I say we are pleased with U.S. forces being here," said Veronica Mendoza, head administrator, barangay San Miguel officials' office. "We encourage further exercises."

Balikatan 2011 is the 27th in a series of combined, joint efforts between the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines of both the Philippines and United States.

The term "Balikatan," which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Tagalog, the official language of the Republic of the Philippines, symbolizes the partnership between the two countries as they work together toward a common goal.