By Aaron Recuenco
Elite police commandos may see action in the annual war games between Filipino and American soldiers after the United States Ambassador agreed to the participation of the elite forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The US Embassy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leadership have also given their nod on the participation of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) and even the Public Safety units of the PNP, according to national police chief Oscar Albayalde.
“This is already approved in principle after I recommended it to the US Ambassador… I have already coordinated with the Chief of Staff of the AFP and he has also agreed,” said Albayalde.
The Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and the United States armed forces is being held in the country every year, usually in May.
The war games involve sharing of best practices in anti-terrorism, counter-insurgency, and territorial defense.
The involvement of police forces in the war games, however, stopped in 1991 when the Philippine Constabulary, which was then under the military, was dissolved to pave the way for a police organization which is civilian in nature, the PNP.
“But we really need these kinds of training exercises because we are also involved in internal security operations,” said Albayalde.
He said that in some provinces for instances, the SAF and Regional Public Safety forces, are in the frontlines in attacking communist rebels and in responding to the rebel group’s attacks on government installations and communities.
Albayalde emphasized the importance of the police role in anti-insurgency operations, noting that President Duterte also saw the need for it when the Chief Executive had approved the forming of five more SAF battalions.
Aside from the recruitment of some 4,000 cops for SAF, Albayalde said it will come with modern firepower and training programs.
“The President also promised that he would improve our air assets. We already have one helicopter and two more are coming. But of course we also want to have at least a fixed wing if we want to deploy SAF in any part of the country,” said Albayalde.
The next Balikatan exercises is expected to be held in the Philippines in May next year.