On Sunday, the Philippines’ military chief announced that the country had officially moved forward with unifying the special operations units of its major services under a consolidated command. The disclosure of the move, which had been mulled, illustrates ongoing efforts by the Southeast Asian state to change how it operates in the wake of new and growing security challenges.
As I have been noting in these pages, a series of security challenges that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been facing over the past few years, including the Zamboanga City attack back in 2013 and the siege of the southern city of Marawi in 2017, has led to some rethinking within the military about how it operates (See: “Battle for Marawi Exposes Philippine Military’s Intelligence Crisis”). One aspect of that has been how the AFP organizes itself for kinds of security operations it is involved in.
Over the weekend, in a sign that at least some of this thinking is translating into action, local media outlets reported that AFP Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero announced the activation of a new AFP Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM). AFPSOCOM, which came into effect on April 6, will function as an integrated command of special operations unit from all major services that will he headquartered at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province.