By Aaron Recuenco
The Australian Army has trained 257 Filipino soldiers on urban combat operation as part of the move to strengthen the local military’s operational capability against terrorists in cities and highly populated areas following the Marawi City siege last year.
Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said the two-week training has focused on urban close combat, search and breach operation, managing combat trauma, communication operation, command and control in urban operation, sniping and countersigning and joint fires and airspace deconfliction.
“With threats evolving and becoming more aggressive in utilizing any means to conduct terrorism in the country, our thrust of protecting the people and securing communities must be recalibrated and should be added with much-needed knowledge and skills to address terrorist threat,” said Clement.
The official said the Australian Defense Force that facilitated the exercise which started on February 15 is composed of six officers and 52 enlisted personnel.
Under the training which is part of the Philippines-Australia Army to Army Exercise (PAAAE), local soldiers coming from various parts of Eastern Mindanao have been trained in various approaches and strategies in dealing with urban terrorism using modern equipment and tried-and-tested combat schemes.
Clement assured the Australian forces that the new combat knowledge they learned would be adapted if local terrorists and their sympathizers would dare to replicate the Marawi City siege in the future.
“It is very timely that this kind of exercise was brought to the 1oth Infantry Division. Our operational environment is ever changing. In training, we will adapt to it, in the ground, we will surely make it. Our forces, your Army is at all times ready to perform our task of protecting the people and securing our communities from any threat,” Clement said.
The training came a few months after the Marawi City siege was retaken from the Maute Group which is being linked to the international terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It took five months before the military succeeded in defeating the Maute Group and their sympathizers, with more or less 1,000 casualties from both sides and the destruction of the Marawi City.
Earlier, the top leader of the biggest faction of Moro rebels warned that there could be another attempt to take over a city in Mindanao in the future.
“We are very thankful to Australia for being among the countries that provided us with much needed defense assistance during Marawi crisis. They helped our troops in locating terrorist positions in difficult urban terrain with their sophisticated equipment and they provided aid to our displaced brothers in Marawi,” said Clement.
“I am very certain that this bilateral exercise has truly and further strengthen the cooperation between our forces, enhanced our urban warfare counter-terrorism, intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities and strengthen our information sharing on significant matters of mutual interest. The skills acquired by our troops in urban warfare and related trainings are very useful specially that this Command is securing a number of urban areas in its area of responsibility to include Metro Davao which is the Malacaňang of the South or the alternate seat of government,” he added.
Her Excellency Amanda Gorely, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, was the guest of honor and speaker during the closing event.
“The PAAAE is a clear display of the long standing partnership between Australian Defense Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines. The military relationship of the two countries goes back to the Second World War when Filipino fighters were trained in Australia prior to returning to the Philippines to carry out guerrilla operations to get occupying Japanese. Terrorism is not only a threat to the Philippines and our region but indeed to other parts of the world. It knows no borders and so we must all remain ready for another incident elsewhere,” she said in her speech.
“It’s been more than 70 years and our Armed Forces continue to work hand in hand in protecting our regions. Australia will always support our allies and neighbors to fight against scourge of terrorism and help protect peace and security that all the people deserve,” she added