THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) needs additional soldiers to augment its 120,000-strong force. AFP would be recruiting an additional 20,000 soldiers in the next three years or until 2016 to strike a balance on the population to security ratio because of the fast increasing Filipino population.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes on Tuesday said they would also provide soldiers with new modern equipment and train them as well on urban warfare, among other trainings, following lessons they learned from the three-week siege of Zamboanga by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.
The AFP leadership, according to Coballes, has decided to implement the initial phase of the plan to the Light Reaction Battalion (LRB), the unit that led the successful liberation of the five-shoreline barangay of Zamboanga City from the hands of the MNLF rebels.
“It will initially start with our light reaction unit. We have seen gaps in the Zamboanga incident and they would be the first to be developed and we will spread this to our other Army units,” he added.
According to Coballes, the light reaction unit would be increased from its present battalion size into a regiment.
A battalion—of 300 to 1,200 soldiers—usually consists of two to seven companies, while a regiment has two or more battalions.
“We will also add modern equipment and of course in terms of doctrine we have learned a lot from the event. So there will be a lot of changes,” Coballes said, adding that they would seek the assistance of the US in terms of training.
For the past 27 years or from 1986 up to the present the AFP membership has remained at 120,000 even as the population nearly doubled.
“In 1986 our soldiers was something like 120,000 and our population was about 59 to 60 million. Now we are already past 2013, our population is 95 to 98 million but our soldiers remain at 120,000, hence our population to security ratio is not right,” Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin pointed out.
According to Gazmin, the additional 20,000 men would be channeled to the three major service command of the AFP based on their requirements.