We Shall Defend Our Island
SOLI’s mission in the Philippines is focused on counter-terrorism training and assisting communities to improve their civil defense. The program was launched in January 2019 in association with Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM), an organization of Filipino military officers, in response to an alarming increase in terrorism in the Philippines.
The Philippines, particularly the island of Mindanao, has been a destination of choice for foreign fighters to join and train local terrorist groups. The problem was exacerbated by the rise of ISIS, which was even able to establish a caliphate in the city of Marawi that ruled for 5 months before the Philippine army recaptured the city after a bloody siege that cost 1,200 lives and caused hundreds of thousands to flee the wartorn city.
In addition to the battle for Marawi, terrorists have conducted numerous operations in the Philippines, including kidnappings and bombings, including a deadly bombing of a Catholic Cathedral in January 2019 that killed 20 people and wounded 102.
Unique Challenges Require Unique Solutions
The siege of Marawi highlighted the problems faced by the Philippines’ conventional military forces in combating terrorism. Liberating the city took 5 months and cost 1,200 lives, numbers that would have been much higher had the military not eventually resorted to traveling the city in an air bombing campaign. As a consequence of this desperate, last-ditch effort, Marawi became a ghost town that will cost an estimated $1.1 billion to rebuild and will likely never fully recover. As of March 2019, nearly two years after the city was liberated, around 70,000 people were still displaced.
Preventing such wholesale destruction of communities has been at the forefront of SOLI strategies in these conflicts. In Iraq, we focused on urban combat, small unit tactics, and other infantry training that would enable local forces to fight and reclaim their towns and cities largely intact so that civilians would have homes to return to after the war. Forces comprised of those who live in the area have numerous advantages over national militaries, especially since they know the local terrain and are willing to fight to the death for their homes and communities.
SOLI’s mission in the Philippines is focused on empowering people to prevent terrorists from entering their territory, defend themselves if necessary, and in the event of being defeated in the initial attack, later help local and national forces liberate their community.
SOLI’s Philippine mission is headquartered in Bohol, an island that has been targeted by terrorists in the past. In April 2017 ISIS militants traveled in 3 pump boats across the open ocean to launch a sneak attack on Bohol. The fighting led to numerous deaths and it took over a month to track down all of the terrorists.
We are working on other islands as well, but Bohol is the focus of our efforts due to its being a target in the past and having excellent local partners to help implement our programs.
SOLI is confident that we will have a real impact on helping communities defend themselves against ISIS and other terrorists, and help them secure their territory so that terrorism no longer has safe havens or soft targets in the Philippines.
- First mission in southeast Asia
- Assisting efforts to eliminate ISIS in one of its last remaining strongholds
- Quality instruction by notable academics, high-ranking retired Filipino military officers, and distinguished subject matter experts
- Medical training for response to knife, firearms, and explosives casualties
- Advancing communication and cooperation between various civil defense authorities and the communities they serve
- Pursuing a long-term strategy to help eliminate ISIS and other terrorist groups from the Philippines