Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents



The Philippine army was formally organized in 1936 after the United States accorded the Philippines commonwealth status in 1935, but it traced its origins to the rebel forces established in 1896 to fight for national independence. The army was intended to be a small standing army modeled on the United States Army, but army strength varied widely over the years, depending on the internal threat. After dramatic growth during the 1970s, total army strength remained relatively stable during the 1980s. With some 68,000 troops in 1990, the army was by far the largest of the services. The commanding general, a major general, directly controlled the service's administrative, logistics, and training functions from headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, but area unified commands exercised operational control over nearly all combat units. Army units were actively involved in the fight against the communist insurgency and, to a lesser extent, monitored the mostly dormant Muslim rebellion.

The army's major tactical units were its eight light infantry divisions. Three divisions were headquartered on the northern Island of Luzon, two were based in the central Visayan Islands, and three operated on the southern island of Mindanao. All except one consisted of three brigades, and that one had two brigades. Although the army's overall strength did not change, during the late 1980s it was structurally expanded, from the four divisions that had existed since 1983 to eight in 1990. The basic maneuver unit was the infantry battalion. Although authorized to contain some 600 soldiers, battalions typically had 500 troops or fewer assigned.

In addition to these infantry formations, the army had a light armored brigade, eight artillery battalions, three engineer brigades, and a construction battalion. Support units included a service support brigade, a training command, a signal group, an intelligence and security group, a civil-military operations battalion, and a finance center. The elite army Scout Ranger regiment, a specialized counterinsurgency force, was disbanded following its participation in the 1989 coup attempt.

The army's weapons were appropriate to its light infantry force structure and counterinsurgency mission (see table 19, Appendix). Major items included 41 light tanks, 85 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 285 armored personnel carriers, and assorted light and medium towed artillery. Most arms and equipment were of United States make or design, although sources of weapons and supplies had diversified since the 1970s. The standard infantry weapon was the United States M-16A1 rifle, manufactured in the Philippines under a license agreement.

The army operated a variety of schools for its arms and branches. The Army Training Command was located at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, north of Manila. The training command provided basic training for enlisted personnel and officers and advanced training in some specialties such as infantry and artillery. Specialized training in other areas, such as armor, intelligence, and engineering, was the responsibility of service extension schools operated by the commanders of those army units. Many soldiers, however, never attended centralized military schools, but instead were trained by army divisions at basic training centers throughout the country.

Data as of June 1991