Soldiers of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 from Sulu prepare for deployment to Palawan under the Western Command yesterday.
Roel Pareño
Marines pulled out from Palawan for retraining in Manila
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A battalion of Marines, deployed in Palawan to secure the country’s western frontier including the Kalayaan Islands in the disputed Spratlys, has been recalled to Manila to undergo retraining and refurbishing program.

Capt. Felix Serapio Jr., Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) spokesman, said elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-12 (MBLT-12) of the 3rd Marine Brigade are already on their way to Manila aboard the Philippine Navy’s strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602) for retraining at Marine headquarters in Taguig City.

The Sulu-based MBLT 3, which was recently replaced by MBLT 8 in operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island province, would be redeployed to Palawan to replace the Manila-bound MBLT 12.

The 3rd Marine Brigade has been deployed in Palawan as one of the key units of the Puerto Princesa-based Western Command (AFP-Wescom), the guardian of the country’s western frontier that includes the Filipino-occupied Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys island chain in the West Philippine Sea.

Aside from threats of terrorism coming from communist rebels and Muslim extremists, the Marines in Palawan are being deployed on rotation basis to guard and secure the nine military outposts within the KIG.

“A send-off ceremony will be accorded to MBLT 8 at 9 a.m. today. Likewise a welcome ceremony will be accorded also to the MBLT 12 upon its arrival at Pier 13, South Harbor,” Serapio said.

He said while in Manila, elements of the MBLT 12 would undergo a series of training that will focus on honing each soldier’s individual skills as well as equipment upgrade.

The role of PMC in securing the country’s maritime and territorial domain in the West Philippine Sea was highlighted in 2014 when China’s coast guard vessels blockaded Ayungin Shoal.

The Chinese blockade was aimed at isolating and starving a contingent of Marine soldiers then led by 1Lt. Mike Pelotera deployed in the area on board a grounded and rusty but still commissioned Philippine Navy landing ship tank BRP Sierra Madre.

Pelotera and his men subsequently got their supplies and were also rotated following the AFP-Wescom’s launching of resupply and troop rotation operations that three Chinese vessels repeatedly tried to block.

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