Philippine soldiers 'capture' buildings in exercise with SAF

Philippines Army personnel doing section-level urban operations drills and capturing a building at the Murai Urban Training Facility. A soldier using a breaching tool to break into a building during the exercise.
Philippines Army personnel doing section-level urban operations drills and capturing a building at the Murai Urban Training Facility. A soldier using a breaching tool to break into a building during the exercise.
Philippines Army personnel doing section-level urban operations drills and capturing a building at the Murai Urban Training Facility. A soldier using a breaching tool to break into a building during the exercise.
The Philippine soldiers forming up before an assault on the buildings. The two-hour-long exercise in Lim Chu Kang yesterday was the culmination of a two-week exchange programme between the Philippine and Singapore armed forces.
The Philippine soldiers forming up before an assault on the buildings. The two-hour-long exercise in Lim Chu Kang yesterday was the culmination of a two-week exchange programme between the Philippine and Singapore armed forces.
A soldier using a breaching tool to break into a building during the exercise.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

In groups of three or four men, a platoon of 23 elite soldiers from the Philippine Army's Special Operations Command, some of whom were involved in the recent intense fighting in the southern city of Marawi, "stormed and captured" a series of buildings as part of a two-hour-long exercise in Lim Chu Kang yesterday.

It was the culmination of a two-week exchange programme between the Philippine and Singapore armed forces which focused on small-unit tactics, techniques and the procedures needed to fight in an urban environment.

A total of 40 Philippine soldiers are in Singapore for the Dec 4 to 15 programme at the Murai Urban Training Facility in Lim Chu Kang.

Colonel Liew Kok Keong, commander of the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Infantry Training Institute, oversaw the exchange.

He 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."

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

"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 the commandant of the Counter Terrorist Development Training School of the Philippine Army.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen offered the Philippine Army use of the SAF's urban training facilities when he visited Manila in July this year.

A previous bilateral exercise between the two armed forces was conducted 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.

Staff Sergeant Mohamad Zunairi Teruna, 28, a trainer at the Infantry Training Institute, witnessed yesterday's exercise in Lim Chu Kang.

He 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.

Thousands of Philippine troops were involved in the intense five-month battle to regain control of Marawi from pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants. More than 1,000 people were estimated to have been killed and hundreds of thousands more displaced by the fighting. The battle ended in October, with troops firmly in control of the city on the island of Mindanao.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2017, with the headline 'Philippine soldiers 'capture' buildings in exercise with SAF'. Print Edition | Subscribe