IN PHOTOS: Australia, PH armies grow closer after Marawi

MANILA, Philippines – The armies of the Philippines and Australia concluded a two-week-long training on urban warfare in Compostela Valley in Mindanao, the latest of a series of joint drills showing growing ties between the two defense treaty allies.

"Our Marawi experience showed us the importance of preparedness in urban warfare so we agreed to train together," said Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), in an interview in Camp Aguinaldo in Manila on Tuesday, March 6.

Australia, like the United States, has a visiting forces agreement with the Philippines. It assisted the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the 2017 Marawi siege. It flew surveillance planes to locate enemies inside the battle area and helped give crash course on urban warfare to Filipino troops used to fighting in the jungles. 

Six officers and 52 enlisted personnel of the Australian Army led by Lieutenant Colonel Judd Finger trained with 257 Filipino soldiers at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters from February 15 to March 1. 

The two-week-long exercises included training on the following skills: 

"It's mutually beneficial because our men also share their experiences in Marawi," said Madrigal. The general said he is looking forward to more specialized training exercises with the Australian Army. 

Major General Noel Clement, chief of the Army's 10th ID, underscored the benefits of the joint training. His unit is responsible for the security of Metro Davao, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The skills acquired by our troops in urban warfare and related trainings are very useful specially that this Command is securing a number of urban areas in its area of responsibility to include Metro Davao, which is the Malacañang of the South or the alternate seat of government,” Clement said in his speech during the closing ceremony.

Madrigal said it's important to train troops in major cities in the country because they are the "first responders" in an event of a terrorist attack. 

Philippine security officials have warned about the possibility of local armed groups attempting a repeat of the Marawi siege. (READ: Maute-ISIS remnants scatter into 10 subgroups – PH military) 

Rappler.com