This month, Israel and the Philippines look set to make progress on kicking off the first publicly-disclosed instance of counterterrorism training between the two sides held in the Philippines. The interaction is just one sign of a broader effort by both sides to deepen their defense ties in spite of the challenges that remain for wider ties.
As I have observed previously, despite concerns around Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war and some of his perceived anti-Semitic remarks, the Philippines and Israel have nonetheless been making inroads in the defense realm in line with Duterte’s efforts to diversify foreign relations with a number of countries for Manila’s security needs.
Among the areas that both sides have been exploring for further collaboration is counterterrorism, which is no surprise given the fact that both countries have the threat of terrorism posed by Islamic State-linked groups at the top of their list of security priorities. While counterterrorism cooperation has been slow to actually take shape, we saw some signs of this when Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde revealed that training was expected to be conducted, with a request made by the Philippines during a weeklong seminar that he and PNP officials had attended in Israel.
This month, we began to see both sides advance counterterrorism training collaboration on the military side. Per Philippine media reports, the Counter-Terrorism Trainer’s Training (CTTT) is set to begin on June 26 and is set to last until July 4, with the objective being Israeli forces helping Philippine trainers to enhance their ability to transfer that knowledge over to their counterparts subsequently.
As of now, not much in the way of specifics has been disclosed by either side. But on Monday this week, an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) delegation led by Dan Goldfus paid a courtesy call on Philippine Army Chief Macairog Alberto at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, which provided an opportunity for both sides to discuss details on the engagement.
While Goldfus and Zagala discussed a range of matters related to counterterrorism, including their own experiences with dealing with the threat, Zagala also reportedly disclosed details on the CTTT. Per The Manila Times, Zagala said that the CTTT would focus on areas such as exchange of knowledge and technology and the importance of methodologies for anti-terrorism and combat techniques.
Per Zata, the CTTT will be held in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ejica, would be attended by around 180 personnel from the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, 5th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, the Special Forces Regiment, the Scout Ranger regiment and the Light Reaction Regiment, while the Israeli side would have a training team of 10 personnel.