US troops helped nip the bud of terror in PH—Ferrer

Posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 and is filed under Defense, Lead Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines/19 January 2012 by Frencie Carreon—The US military’s contribution to the development of southern Philippines is a significant one, not only from the standpoint of helping restore peace and order especially in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, but also from the perspective of economic development, although indirectly.

This is what Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in an exclusive interview.    “The US military helped nip the bud of terror in Mindanao,” he stressed.

The US military have left the Philippines a decade past, with the closure of the Clark Air Base in Pampanga in 1991, and finally, the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City in 1993.  Following the Chinese Navy’s installation of a helipad, and other structures at Mischief Reef, then President Gloria Arroyo requested for the return of US military presence in the country, thus giving birth to the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998, which was amended a year thereafter.  In the next two years, planning conferences were held by the defense departments of both US and PH, and the US forces officially set foot anew on Philippine soil with the start of Balikatan 2001, the annual military exercises participated by selected personnel of both states.

The trainings, Ferrer said, came in various programs.  These include  Carat, Marsurvex, Flash Piston in 2000, Teak Piston in 2001, then the bigger ones through Balikatan in 2002, and the succeeding years.  There was also Balance Piston in 2003, 2005, towards 2006, Carat, the Talon Vision and Amphibian Landing Exercises, and Kapit-Bisig also in 2006, and Marex.   “The US (soldier) trains the (Filipino) soldier behind the weapon,” the WesMinCom chief said.

“The SMEE, or Subject Matter Expert Exchange, is among the most vital, as it includes joint planning on combat, marksmanship, IED (Improvised Explosive Device) identification, and counterterrorism efforts,” Ferrer said.  “Getting trained for IED identification is very important because this helps (the Filipino soldier) determine the perpetrator, be he part of a local terror group or not,” Ferrer elaborated.

The joint military exercises among selected US and Philippine armed forces are normally conducted within the first quarter of a year.  Ferrer, who is soon leaving the helm of the WesMinCom owing to a mandatory retirement next week, admitted he has not been into the loop on the details about the coming Balikatan exercises.  However, he stressed the significance in bilateral benefits from the exercises.

“Generally, both sides benefit.  We lack the equipment, and they have it.  The US on the other hand also benefits from us.  After the Vietnam War, they reoriented their approach from conventional warfare to guerrilla warfare or asymmetrical warfare.  This came after Afghanistan and Iraq, where they fully demonstrated that the US is militarily superior,” the 3-star general said.

“The US lacks training on guerilla warfare and they learned this in Mindanao,” Ferrer added, explaining that asymmetrical warfare covers having non-uniformed enemies who may have been informally trained, or not at all.

Among those Filipino soldiers who were trained by the visiting US forces is Maj. Michael Cuenca, who is now with WesMinCom’s Operations Unit.  Cuenca  joined the exercises in 2004, and was among the Cotabato-based joint contingent from 27th IB and 64th IB.  The exercise, he said, lasted from April to November in two batches.

“Marami po talagang natunan ang tropa sa Balikatan Exercises,” Cuenca said, recalling his experience in Camp Arturo Enrile in Malagutay, this city.  “Varied ‘yung training.  Kasali din po ang staff training, and leadership course  (The training varied.  Staff training and leadership course were included.)  US (military) trainers provide theoretical inputs that are valuable to most of us,” he added.

In a separate interview, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Commander Col. Francis Beaudette said, “At the invitation of the Philippine Government, the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines will continue to play our role in the United States’ foreign policy approach as a reliable and strategic partner of the Philippines in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The US Army colonel added, “We will do this by providing continued assistance, implementing joint exercises and specialized training events, as we have done over the many years of our mutual defense relationship.”

Beaudette, a member of the Special Action Forces, has been in the Philippines since July 2011, and is the fourth Commander of the JSOTFP.  (Frencie Carreon, The PhilSouth Angle)

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