Air Force, Navy hold drills in Mindanao

By Roel Pareño and Jaime Laude

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Amid the fighting between government troops and Maute militants in Marawi, the Navy and Air Force have launched joint exercises to enhance counter terrorism and territorial defense operations. File

 ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines —  Amid the fighting between government troops and Maute militants in Marawi, the Navy and Air Force have launched joint exercises to enhance counter terrorism and territorial defense operations.

Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Naval Force Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, said his unit partnered with the Tactical Operations Wing of the 3rd Air Division for the exercise dubbed as Ayudahan.

The drills, which started in Barangay Calarian in  this city on Monday, will run until next month.

“The exercises aim to develop interoperability and operational capabilities of NFWM tactical operations command units in Western Mindanao…and enhance the overall coordination and responsiveness in the conduct of joint maritime operations in support of internal security operations and territorial defense operations,” Medina said. 

Personnel of the Naval Task Force 61, Naval Special Operations Unit 6, Naval Air Unit, Naval Intelligence and Security Group, Maritime Situational Awareness Center of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) and 15th Strike Wing, 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, 304th Air Intelligence and Security Squadron, 722nd Special Operations Squadron and the 505th Search and Rescue Group are participating in the drills. 

“The continuous collaboration of the two forces is an evidence of a strong commitment to serve and perform their respective duties for the pursuit of lasting peace, order and development in Western Mindanao,” Medina said.

Westmincom’s area of operations includes the coastal waters off Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. It also covers the country’s border with Indonesia and Malaysia in Sulu Sea, where piracy, kidnapping and other cross-border crimes have been rampant. 

A number of foreigners, mostly Malaysian and Indonesian seafarers, are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan. 

Sulu Sea is also used as an entry and exit point of foreign terrorists in the country.

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