RALLYING THE TROOPS. Maj. Gen. Eric Vinoya (right), commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, rallies the troops of the 12th Infantry Battalion (12IB) during the start of their organizational training on Monday (Feb. 3, 2020). The 12IB will be converted to a maneuver battalion, which will provide Panay Island with more foot soldiers to fight insurgency. (Photo courtesy of 3ID Public Affairs Office)

ILOILO CITY -- The Philippine Army in Panay Island will soon have fresh legs to step up its fight against insurgency as the 501-strong 12th Infantry Battalion (12IB) undergoes organizational and Community Support Program (CSP) training.

The training of the 12IB, composed of 19 officers and 482 enlisted personnel, has formally started on Monday.

Capt. Cenon Pancito III, the spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said in an interview Thursday that the 12IB troopers are seen to boost the fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Panay Island.

The 12IB used to be a “cadre” battalion, or the one handling administrative requirements of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

Pancito said they will be converted to maneuver battalion that will now include foot soldiers.

“We have seen the lack of troops here in Panay. We have a deadline to beat (to end insurgency) that is supposed to happen this year. If not, hopefully at the end of the term of the President,” Pancito said.

Panay Island and the island province of Guimaras are covered by only one maneuver battalion which is the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) with its headquarters in Miagao town, Iloilo. The 61st IB is composed of almost 500 troops.

“One of the constraints that we cannot solve, the Panay part is we really lack the strength, the operations to do so,” he said.

The 12IB will have six weeks of training at the Battalion Retraining Facilities (BRF) in Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz.

The troops will dedicate four weeks for operational training and two weeks of Community Support Program (CSP) training.

Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot, a former commander of the 61st IB, will lead the 12IB, Pancito said.

Maj. Gen. Eric Vinoya, commander of the Army’s 3ID, said the 12IB is expected to be at the top shape after the training.

In the meantime, the 12IB will be faced with “low equipment readiness” as the process of converting them into a maneuver battalion is quite similar to creating a new infantry battalion.

“Your equipment also came from other existing battalions that is why you can expect low equipment readiness for the meantime. But the point is, you can look at this as a problem, a challenge, or an opportunity,” Vinoya said, adding that the 12IB can be creative and get away from established norms that have been leading the army to mediocrity.

He encouraged the troops to give their best during the said training as they are expected to enhance their operational capability and conduct CSP in the grassroots communities.

“Give your best shot during the training for you are doing this to prepare yourselves and your unit in performing and bringing your mandate to the next level. This time, you will not only serve the Visayans but will fulfill their fervent desire for an insurgency-free community,” Vinoya said. (PNA)