Elite Philippine army 'captures' buildings in exercise with SAF

In groups of three or four, a platoon of 23 elite soldiers from the Philippine Army's Special Operations Command, some of whom were involved in the fighting in Marawi, "stormed and captured" 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 Philippine and Singapore armed forces, which focused on small-unit tactics, techniques and the procedures needed to fight in an urban environment. Forty 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 the Philippine Army soldiers have from the Marawi crisis has allowed us to validate our doctrines and drills in the urban operations. The... bond forged in this professional exchange will strengthen the cooperation between the two countries and help 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 Maj 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.