Elite Philippine Army soldiers 'capture' buildings in final exercise with SAF

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SINGAPORE - In waves of three to four men, a platoon of 23 elite soldiers from the Philippine Army's Special Operations Command, some of them veterans who fought in the recent Marawi crisis, stormed and successfully captured a series of buildings.

The two-hour long exercise on Wednesday (Dec 13) was the culmination of a professional exchange programme between the Philippine and Singapore Armies. The two-week exchange focused on mutual learning of small unit tactics, techniques and procedures needed to fight in an urban environment.

A total of 40 Philippine soldiers were in Singapore from Dec 4 to 15 for the exchange, held at the Murai Urban Training Facility in Lim Chu Kang.

Colonel Liew Kok Keong, commander of the Infantry Training Institute who oversaw the exchange, said: "The experience that the Philippine Army soldiers have from the Marawi crisis has allowed us to validate our doctrines and drills in the urban operations.

"The friendship and bond forged in this professional exchange will strengthen the cooperation between the two countries and help to improve the security in our region," he added.

His counterpart, head of the Philippine Army delegation Major Edwin Mirador, said such training was important as it provided the soldiers with the skills required to accomplish any given mission.

Some of the soldiers here for the exchange had fought in the five-month Marawi conflict with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-affiliated militants on the island of Mindanao that ended in October this year. More than 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed and more than 400,000 displaced by the fighting.

Philippine Army soldiers doing section-level Urban Operations drills and capturing a building at the Murai Urban Training Facility. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

"The professional exchange with the SAF has allowed us to share knowledge on the Marawi operations and adopt SAF's urban operations training procedures for learning. Therefore, co-sharing between the armies was an essential training aid," said Major Mirador, who is also commandant of the Counter Terrorist Development Training School.

The exchange comes after Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen offered for the Philippine Army to use the SAF's urban training facilities when he visited the country in July this year(17).

In August, the SAF delivered humanitarian supplies donated by the SAF and the Singapore Red Cross to those affected by the conflict. Singapore had also offered drones and its urban warfare training facilities to help the Philippine troops.

A previous bilateral exercise between the two armed forces was in 1996, although soldiers from both sides interact regularly through visits and multilateral exercises such as the ADMM-Plus Maritime Security and Counter-Terrorism Exercise in May last year(16).

A total of 40 Philippine soldiers were in Singapore from Dec 4 to 15 for the exchange, held at the Murai Urban Training Facility in Lim Chu Kang. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Staff Sergeant Mohamad Zunairi Teruna, 28, a trainer at the Infantry Training Institute who witnessed the summary exercise at Lim Chu Kang, said: "The movement and the cover they gave to each other was something we could learn from them.

"Fighting in an urban area is very complex and open, enemies can be all around, so it is important for movement to be covered and quick," he added.

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