On August 7, Singapore’s defense ministry announced that a transport aircraft had airlifted relief to the Philippines as the military continues to battle Islamic State-linked militants in the southern city of Marawi. The fighting has killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands of people (See: “Why Has the Philippines’ Military Struggled in its Terror Fight Under Duterte?”). The move is part of an ongoing effort by Manila’s neighbors to assist it in confronting a rising terror threat that has sparked growing concerns (See: “What Did the New Asia Terrorism Meeting in Indonesia Achieve?”).
As I noted previously, when Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen visited the Philippines in mid-July and met his counterpart Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, he offered counterterrorism assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Though Ng had been talking about such aid previously as well, including during this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) where the Islamic State was widely discussed, that represented the first concrete offer of assistance made from the city-state (See: “Sulu Sea Trilateral Patrols in the Spotlight at the 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue”).
This included, most notably, a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 transport aircraft to deliver humanitarian supplies to the evacuees from Marawi; use of the SAF’s urban training villages for the AFP troops (which have had a tough time battling in an urban environment in Marawi), and a detachment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones to enhance the AFP’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (See: “Singapore Gives Philippines Aid to Fight Islamic State Threat”).
Ng also suggested that the city-state could help in other areas such as coordinating humanitarian assistance for the reconstruction of Marawi, since Singapore currently plays host to several regional facilities, including the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Center (RHCC).
In doing so, Singapore became the latest in a list of countries that had either given or mulled assistance to the Philippines for the Marawi crisis, which has so far included not just traditional allies and partners like the United States and Australia, but also others like China (See: “US Terror Aid to Philippines Signals Enduring Defense Ties Under Duterte”).
On Monday, the dispatch of that assistance began when the RSAF C-130 transport aircraft airlifted humanitarian supplies worth $100,000 to the Philippines. According to MINDEF, the relief package comprised tents, blankets, medical supplies, food items, and water filtration devices donated by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Singapore Red Cross (SRC).
The aid supplies were handed over to representatives from the AFP and the Office of Civil Defense by the SAF Mission Commander, Colonel Lee Kuan Chung, Director of the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (RHCC) and Nazeer Bin Basir, Executive (International Services), SRC.
According to AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the aircraft arrived at Laguindingan Airport, Misamis Oriental, at about 11:25am Philippine time and immediately unloaded the relief items, flying back to Singapore at 2:31pm.