Philippines Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2023)

note 1: the Philippine Coast Guard is an armed and uniformed service under the Department of Transportation; it would be attached to the AFP in wartime; the Philippine National Police Force (PNP) falls under the Department of the Interior

note 2: the Philippine Government also arms and supports civilian militias; the AFP controls Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units, while the Civilian Volunteer Organizations fall under PNP command

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2022 est.)

1.1% of GDP (2021 est.)

1.1% of GDP (2020)

1.1% of GDP (2019)

1% of GDP (2018)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 130,000 active duty personnel (90,000 Army; 25,000 Navy, including about 8,000 Marine Corps; 15,000 Air Force) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the AFP is equipped with a mix of imported weapons systems, particularly secondhand equipment from the US; the top weapons suppliers in recent years have included South Korea and the US (2022)

Military service age and obligation

18-25 (enlisted) and 21-29 (officers) years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; no conscription (2022)

note: as of 2020, women made up about 6% of the active military; women were allowed to enter the Philippine Military Academy and train as combat soldiers in 1993

Military - note

the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were formally organized during the American colonial period as the Philippine Army; they were established by the National Defense Act of 1935 and were comprised of both Filipinos and Americans

the US and Philippines agreed to a mutual defense treaty in 1951; in 2014, the two governments signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that established new parameters for military cooperation; under the EDCA, the Philippine Government may grant US troops access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis “for security cooperation exercises, joint and combined military training activities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities”; the Philippines has Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status with the US, a designation under US law that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation

the AFP's primary air and ground operational focus is internal security, particularly in the south, where several separatist Islamic insurgent and terrorist groups operate and up to 60% of the armed forces are deployed; additional combat operations are conducted against the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army, which is active mostly on Luzon, the Visayas, and areas of Mindanao; prior to a peace deal in 2014, the AFP fought a decades-long conflict against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist organization based mostly on the island of Mindanao; the MILF's armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), had up to 40,000 fighters under arms

as such, the AFP’s air and ground forces are experienced with and largely configured for counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations; a majority of the Air Force’s combat aircraft are ground attack capable and organized in mixed fixed-wing and helicopter squadrons or combat groups formed for mobile operations against insurgents and terrorists; similarly, 10 of the Army’s 11 divisions are light infantry, and the AFP has a joint-service special operations command comprised of rangers, scouts, special forces, counterterrorism, quick reaction, marine, naval, and air units

in addition to its typical roles of patrolling the country's territorial waters, the Navy conducts interdiction operations against terrorist, insurgent, and criminal groups around the southern islands, including joint maritime patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia, particularly in the Sulu Sea; the Navy has commands for offshore, littoral, and amphibious operations; most of its surface fleet consists of coastal patrol vessels and fast attack craft, although in response to disputes over claims in the South China Sea over the past decade the Navy has acquired some larger warships, including frigates, a corvette, offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), and landing platform dock (LPD) amphibious assault ships, and has plans to acquire additional corvettes and OPVs in the next few years; the Marine Corps consists of 4 infantry brigades and also conducts counterinsurgency operations 

the Philippines National Police (PNP) also has an active role in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism operations alongside the AFP, particularly the Special Action Force, a PNP commando unit that specializes in urban counter-terrorism operations (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reports the territorial waters of littoral states and offshore waters in the South China Sea as high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; an emerging threat area lies in the Celebes and Sulu Seas between the Philippines and Malaysia where six ships were attacked in 2022 compared to nine in 2021; pirates and militants in the southern Philippines conduct attacks on vessels in the Sibutu passage, off Sibutu island, Tawi Tawi, Sulu sea, Celebes sea, and off eastern Sabah; they have attacked tugs, barges, fishing vessels, yachts, and merchant ships to rob and kidnap crews for ransom

NOTE: The information regarding Philippines on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Philippines 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Philippines 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.