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Archive for June 1st, 2007

Army reactivates elite water-borne troops for Mindanao

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 01:32pm (Mla time) 06/01/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Army’s elite Special Forces has reactivated its water-borne companies, in preparation for deployment to Mindanao, where they are battling al Qaeda-linked extremist groups, officials said.

The 12th Special Forces Company (Riverrine) will be reactivated later this year, after they finish retraining. The 8th and 11th companies were reactivated last year, said Brigadier General Arturo Ortiz, Army Special Forces commander.

The 28 high-speed airboats that the Philippine military will receive from Australia will be given to the reorganized water-borne troops, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

The first batch of deliveries of the airboats is expected later this year. Australia pledged to donate the hardware earlier this week on the eve of the signing of its Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOFVA) with the Philippines.

“The initial plan is to deploy two companies to Mindanao,” Torres told reporters, without giving specific details.

“The Army saw the need for a unit that can pursue the enemy on water. Our terrain is filled coastlines,” Torres said.

Asked if the water-borne troops would be deployed to the vast Liguasan Marsh in central Mindanao, the suspected enclave of the Abu Sayyaf, the Jemaah Islamiyah, and other bandit groups, Torres said, “That area has always been a problem. You make your own conclusions.”

The two reactivated Riverrine Companies have been deployed to Bulacan and Nueva Ecija provinces, and were placed under the operational control of local Army units, Torres said.

Each company is composed of around 120 troops. At its peak, the Special Forces had two Riverrine Battalions, composed of three companies or roughly 720 troops, Torres said.

The incumbent commander of the Philippine Army, Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino, was a former commander of a Riverrine Battalion, the spokesman added.

Incidentally, the Special Operations Command (Socom), which includes all elite Army units, celebrated its eleventh anniversary on Friday.

Aside from the Special Forces, the Socom also includes the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) and the United States-trained Light Reaction Battalion.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-06-01T07:39:08+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Fri, 01 Jun 2007 07:39:08 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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