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The Armed Forces of the Philippines or AFP (Filipino: Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas) originated in the revolutionary battles during the Philippine War of Independence against Spain. The AFP was formally organized during the American Commonwealth era through Commonwealth Act No. 1 or the National Defense Act of December 21, 1935. It is the principal body of defense for the nation, under the leadership of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President of the Philippines. Organized under the advisory supervision of General Douglas MacArthur by invitation of Commonwealth Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is loosely based on the structure of the military of the United States. While modest in its material and technological capability, the AFP soldiers are considered one of the most battle-hardened armies in the world due to their long exposure to counterinsurgency and anti-secessionist campaigns in the Philippines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines consists of the Army (Hukbong Katihan), Navy (Hukbong Dagat) and Air Force (Hukbong Himpapawid). The Navy is comprised of two commands: the Philippine Fleet and the Marine Corps. The Coast Guard exists under naval command. The National Defense College of the Philippines and Philippine Military Academy are the principal defense training institutions. Due to its close relationship with the United States military establishment, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was considered the strongest national defense program in Asia — especially in the 1950s and 1960s. The expulsion of United States military presence from its structures, cuts in funding by the Congress of the Philippines and the nature of Philippine politics has been cited as sources of decline of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in recent years. The average age of its manpower is 18 years old; males aged 15 through 49 are eligible for recruitment and active duty. The 1998 fiscal year expenditures for the Armed Forces of the Philippines totaled USD $995 million; a total of 1.5% of the gross domestic product.
Major Military Units
The Army is organized into eight Light Infantry Divisions, a Light Armored Brigade, a Scout Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations Command with various special forces units, five Engineering Battalions, one Artillery Regiment at Headquarters, the Presidential Security Group, and three Light-Reaction Companies. The Navy is deployed at Sangley Point/Cavite, Zamboanga, and Cebu. The Air Force is organized into Headquarters and five commands: Air Defense, Tactical Operations, Air Education and Training, Air Logistics and Supply, and Air Reserves.
AFP Rapid Deployment Units
Marine Force Recon - The Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) has a strength of about 10,000 men divided into five (5) brigades. The Marine units include four (4) infantry maneuver brigades, composed of fifteen (15) tactical infantry battalions and two (1) heavy weapons brigade (composed of the 105mm Howitzer, 106mm recoiless gun, along with an amphibious vehicle (LVT) and armoured units). Two (2) of the marine battalions have specialized roles: The Force Reconnaisance (Recon) battalion is used for rapid airlift to troubled areas and search and kill. This Recon battalion is also trained in shipboarding attacks. The Marine Guard battalion is deployed in urban warfare and in defense of an installation. The Philippine Marines (PMC) is also considered the shock force of the Armed Forces and is the first unit to be involved in any amphibious or seaborne clashes.
SWAG SEALs in action.
Philippine Navy Special Warfare Group (SWAG) - Supporting the Marines is the Philippine Navy's Special Search and kill Group (SWAG) whose main unit is the Philippine SEALs (Sea-Air-Land). The Search and kill brigade is divided into thirty (30)Killer teams. Their basic training lasts six months and has a 75% to 90% percent dropout rate. SEAL training includes demolitions, cartography, scuba, parachuting and hand-to-hand combat, Silent killing, Underwater fighting skills or UFS. SEALs train regularly with their American counterparts in an annual amphibious exercise codenamed "Palau". In 1996, Filipino and American SEALs trained in Palawan island near the Spratlys.
Philippine Army Special Operations Command (SOC) - Philippine Army Special Operations Command (SOC) is composed of over 6,000 troops divided into the Army Scout Ranger Regiment (SRR), 1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), the Psychological Operations Group (POG) and the Special Operations Group (SOG). The "Delta Force" of the Philippine Army is the elite "Alpha Two Zero" or A-20 trained in counter-terrorist operations. Under the Special Forces Regiment (SFR) of the Philippine Army is the 1st Riverine (SF) Battalion equipped with 50 footer fast assault boats. This Special Forces seaborne battalion works together with the Seaborne Brigade of the 1st Infantry (Tabak "Machete") Division. Both Army seaborne units are based in Sulu near the Spratly islands. Philippine Air Force RDU - The rapid deployment force of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is the 710th Special Operations Wing divided into ten (10)-man airborne attack teams. Supporting units include the Air Commando Squadrons of the 15th Strike Wing under the Tactical Operations Command. Its official mission is to "conduct contingency operations against hostile elements".
Philippine Defense Reform Program
The Philippine Department of National Defense and the AFP are currently undertaking comprehensive, integrated and long-term efforts to further boost the capability of the Philippines military to respond and address the multi-front fight against various security threats, particularly terrorism and insurgency. This initiative is under the rubric of the Philippine Defense Reform Program or PDR, which has been ongoing since 2003. The PDR has eight (8) component thrusts: 1. IMPLEMENTATION OF A STRATEGY-DRIVEN, MULTI-YEAR DEFENSE PLANNING SYSTEM (MYDPS) A planning, programming and budgeting system that will undertake multi year defense planning will enhance defense resource management in the DND and the AFP. It will enforce fiscal responsibility by enabling the DND and the AFP to outline specific strategies, define objectives, identify needed capabilities and resources to be provided under anticipated financial limits. 2. IMPROVEMENT OF OPERATIONAL AND TRAINING CAPACITY Improvement of operational and training capacity of the AFP enjoys a high priority in the comprehensive reform agenda for the AFP under the PDR. The backlog of training for the AFP will be addressed focusing on training for commanders, non-commissioned officers and units. Emphasis will also be given to the development of doctrines, training and operations of joint forces that involve the utilization of land, maritime and air forces under a unified command. 3. IMPROVEMENT OF LOGISTICS CAPACITY The lack of needed logistics in the frontlines has been used as an excuse for the practice referred to in the Feliciano Commission report as “conversion.” evidently, there is a need to improve the logistics capacity of the AFP to address this. Improvement of logistics capacity involves the enhancement of operational readiness and reliability rates for all platforms and weapons systems as well as the logistics efficiency of key AFP systems. This will entail improvements in planned maintenance and maintenance procedures, supply chain management, automated supply management system, inventory controls and logistics training. 4. IMPROVING OPERATIONAL LEVEL EXPERTISE BY ADDRESSING ORGANIZATIONAL, MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONAL SYSTEMIC DEFICIENCIES (STAFF DEVELOPMENT) The staff development program of the DND and AFP shall include the development of expertise and management skills in the DND and AFP in critical areas or functions that directly impact on the AFP’s capability to plan, support and execute effective operations. 5. IMPROVEMENT OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Improvement of personnel management systems in the DND and AFP shall include: (1) review and evaluation of personnel policies and personnel management systems; (2) realignment of AFP force structure to address strategy, threat and mission; (3) reduction of personnel costs; and (4) automation of the personnel management information systems. 6. PLANNING, PROGRAMMING AND EXECUTION OF A MULTI-YEAR CAPABILITY UPGRADE PROGRAM FOR THE AFP As previously discussed, for the mid-term, the 6-year AFP capability upgrade program for the AFP will focus on the basic requirements of the AFP to improve its capabilities in fulfilling its missions in pursuit of its internal security operations. 7. OPTIMIZING THE DEFENSE BUDGET AND IMPROVING MANAGEMENT CONTROLS This will feature needed improvements in the generation of requirements for planning, budgeting for the DND and AFP as well as the creation of structures and systems for oversight within the DND and the AFP major services to manage resources and requirements from planning to execution. 8. CREATING A PROFESSIONAL ACQUISITION WORKFORCE AND ESTABLISHING A CENTRALLY MANAGED DEFENSE ACQUISITION SYSTEM A defense acquisition system will be established in the DND and the AFP manned by a competent and professional acquisition workforce capable of requirements generation, planning, accountability, reporting and acquisition. The defense acquisition system will be capable of evolving effective acquisition strategies, and policies as well as efficient processes and organizations. In preparation for the transition, the DND and AFP shall establish mechanisms and structures that will serve as precursors for the establishment of a defense acquisition system. 9. INCREASING CAPABILITY OF THE AFP TO CONDUCT CIVIL MILITARY OPERATIONS To diminish the underlying socio-economic conditions and spur development in the countryside, the DND and AFP shall support efforts of the government that will facilitate the entry of economic enterprises in conflict areas. The DND and AFP will also encourage government departments and agencies to identify and intensify particular programs and action plans that support the counterinsurgency campaign funded under their corresponding budgets. The DND will also support the enhancement of convergence of government efforts at addressing the root causes of the insurgency. 10. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM Information management shall support and enhance the decision-making system of the DND and AFP through management of information, information systems and technologies. It aims to establish an enterprise information system that efficiently facilitates the flow of information and knowledge, and that enhances information-sharing while assuring security and relevance, in order to ensure right decisions. Two important steps in this undertaking will be establishing an effective strategic framework; and,
assuring that information being used is interoperable, interrelated, timely, available, secure, and that operations, systems and technology are addressed and conform to the existing standards. The overall direction of the PDR is to enhance DND and AFP capabilities from a strategic and comprehensive perspective. The PDR will provide institutional, structural and systemic reforms that will address the current deficiencies in the DND and the AFP that breed corruption, waste and inefficiency. These reforms are based on templates for defense reform that have been tried and tested in several countries that have undertaken similar reform measures in the past.
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