THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said there would be no problem putting up a unit composed of elite military and police personnel to address potential crisis similar to Monday's hostage crisis.

Eight tourists were killed at the hostage drama staged by dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza. The hostage taker was also killed in the incident.

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AFP spokesman Jose Mabanta issued the statement after Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma said that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III wants a strike force made up of AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) elements so the country would be better prepared in facing similar situations in the future.

The PNP drew criticisms from the assault mounted by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team on the tourist bus seized by Mendoza.

The public saw on national television that the team was deficient in equipment and apparently lacking in training.

Mabanta noted that the Armed Forces do have elite units, including the Joint Special Operations Group (SOG) based in Camp Aguinaldo. The SOG is composed of composite elite forces from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Specifically, the SOG has the US-trained Light Reaction Company (LRC) as among the units under it.

The military had offered the services of the LRC, which was actually sent to the crime scene last Monday, but was not utilized by the police ground commander.

Also, Mabanta said the PNP has its elite unit, the Special Action Force (SAF).

Mabanta said that while it was easy to form the strike force, the issue at hand is the training and their equipment, which needs to match.

“Now that we have these (elite units), one of the things to do is to integrate. There are already elite forces available. It would be much easier to combine or have this on a joint mode but the thing is there is a need for lots of coordination and collaboration,” he said.

“There has to be interoperability between the forces of the PNP and the Armed Forces. Interoperability is very important. So how do we do that? First is to conduct joint exercises and training. Second is to see to it that equipment are compatible with each other, particularly communication," he added.

The PNP and AFP, according to Mabanta, have been coordinating and collaborating in past operations "but not on a combined or a joint mode."

“In the light of the instruction of the President and in the light of the present threats particularly terrorism, it is very important and timely,” he said on the need to form the joint strike force. (VR/Sunnex)