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Philippine Army History

The Battle of Mactan on 27 April 1521 marked the first organized resistance of the Filipinos against foreign invaders. Lapu-Lapu, a chieftain of Mactan island, defeated Spanish colonizer Ferdinand Magellan. Years of Spanish rule, which dragged on to almost 3 centuries made the Filipinos restive. They were soon clamoring for reforms and an end to oppressive friar rule. In 1896, Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan to prepare his band of freedom loving Filipinos for armed revolt. The Katipunan formed the nucleus of the Revolutionary Philippine Army.

Almost a year after the outbreak of hostilities between the Katipuneros and the Spanish troops, the Philippine Revolutionary Government and its Army were born on 22 March 1897 at Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite. General Artemio Ricarte was named Captain General of the Ejercito en la Republica de las Islas Filipinas or the Revolutionary Philippine Army. This date marked the founding day of the modern day Philippine Army.

On 12 June 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence from Spain and formed the first Philippine Republic, in which he sat as its President. The Filipino troops were to enjoy only a brief respite from combat when American forces came in to establish rule in the islands by virtue of the Treaty of Paris, which Spain co-signed with America on 10 December 1898. The treaty ceded the Philippines to the United States.

On 4 February 1899, the Filipino-American War erupted. Due to the superiority of American arms, the Filipinos fell from one position to another until they were forced to disband. Even after the official cessation of hostilities and as the Americans had established government in 1901, the Filipino revolutionaries continued their struggle for freedom. From that time until 1935, the Revolutionary Army lost many of its cohorts in sporadic engagements with American troops, but was never entirely broken up.

With the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth on 15 November 1935, President Manuel Luis Quezon sought the services of General Douglas McArthur to evolve a national defense plan. Accordingly, Commonwealth Act No.1, popularly known as the National Defense Act was enacted into law. This paved the way for the birth of the new Philippine Army, which was only to be under the coat of the US Army. With an annual appropriation of 16 million Philippine pesos, it trained new Filipino members in defending the nation and protecting its people.

When World War II broke out in 1941, 2 regular and 10 reserve divisions of the Philippine Army undertook the defense of the Philippines. These divisions were incorporated into the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under the command of General Douglas McArthur.

In the early 1950s and the mid-1960s, the Philippine government extended a helping hand to war-torn countries as part of its commitment as member of the United Nations. The Army sent 5 battalions, the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK), to fulfill its pledge to uphold the struggle for democracy. The Philippine Civic Action Group to Vietnam (PHILCAG-V) was sent to South Vietnam on a mission of peace, where army engineers helped build communities and army doctors and nurses provided medical services to the people.

Under the leadership of Brigadier General Leoncio S. Tan the Philippine Army established its separate headquarters on 10 July 1957. The onset of the 1960s ushered an expansion of the army's roles, which included participation in the socio-economic programs among others.

To achieve greater flexibility and effectiveness, infantry divisions took the place of the military areas in the 1970s. On 21 September 1972, the Martial Law era began. During the decade, military operations supported by civic action blocked the escalation of insurgency.

The onset of the 1980s saw the birth of the Special Operations Team (SOT) strategy, which was aimed at isolating the insurgents from the civilian population, and dismantling the communist political organizations, thus neutralizing and denying them control of barangays all over the country.

Aside from counterinsurgency campaigns, the SOT played an additional role in national development. Together with local government officials, SOT identified problems and helped provide assistance in areas that lacked vital facilities and service like roads, bridges, schools, health and sanitation, livelihood, etc. With its effectiveness in quelling insurgency, this strategy was being adopted not only by the Army, but by the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Consistent with the fiscal year 2006 to 2011 guidance provided under the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), 14 Battalions (12 Army Infantry and 2 Marine Battalions) were to be fully-manned, equipped and re-trained each year starting in 2006. In 6 years, a total of 72 Army Infantry Battalions and 12 Marine Battalions was planned to have benefited from the program. This would enable the AFP to effectively execute its plans and accomplish its goal by providing battalions in the field with suitable personnel, equipment and training that would give them the decisive advantage over the enemy.

Each battalion for upgrade would be adequately manned with suitable personnel in accordance with the approved Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E). Battalions for upgrade would have priority in selecting and acquiring from the pool of new Officers and Enlisted Personnel recruits in achieving the target personnel requirements under the TO&E. Part of this effort would be the development of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija into the AFP National Training Center (NTC). The DND and AFP also envisioned the development of regional training centers (RTCs) in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Under the standard TO&E, some examples of basic equipment that would be provided to each battalion for upgrade, as well as their supporting units included:

  • For Firepower: Sniper rifles, M203 40mm grenade launchers, squad automatic weapons, mortars, rocket launchers, night capable attack helicopters, upgraded MD520MG helicopters, night fighting equipment. The upgrade of M16A1 to M16A2 rifles was also under consideration.
  • For Mobility: Trucks and troop carriers, upgraded Armored Personnel Carriers (M113), upgraded light armored vehicles (V150), Landing Craft Utilities (LCU), Combat Rubber Inflatable Boats (CRIB), Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB), watercraft (platoon capacity), upgraded Patrol Killer Medium (PKM) vessels, and additional UH-1H helicopters.
  • For Communications: Hand-held, man-pack, vehicle and base radios, scanners and repeaters, Fixed Communication System, Global Positioning System, compasses, maps, binoculars, computers, surveillance cameras and signal intelligence equipment.
  • For Force Protection and Combat Life Support: Body armor and helmets, medical equipment, combat life-saver kits, Field Medics and MedEvac.




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