Ayungin soldiers living better now
The military’s aggressive modernization efforts have translated to better conditions for the Philippine Marines stationed on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
The new chief of the Palawan-based Western Command (WesCom) noted that the Marines posted on the BRP Sierra Madre were now enjoying better living conditions because of more frequent resupply missions.
“At least as compared before, they always have fresh supplies and when they need something we are able to provide their request,” said Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, the newly installed WesCom commander.
He noted that in the past, resupply missions were usually conducted once every three months because of the limitations of the Philippine Navy’s number of seaworthy vessels.
“Now because of our two Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, a ship is usually navigating these waters every 45 days,” Mercado said.
Change of command
The new WesCom commander made the remarks during the change of command ceremony in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on Monday.
He succeeded the WesCom vice commander, Brig. Gen. Elvin Hermogino, who took over in an acting capacity in April upon the retirement of then WesCom chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez.
Mercado, a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983, will
also serve as Philippine Fleet commander pending the appointment of his replacement.
The Palawan-based WesCom is in charge of military operations covering Palawan and the Kalayaan Group of Islands, as well as the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea.
This includes the Spratly Islands and the Chinese-controlled Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales.
The Philippines is locked in a territorial dispute with China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan over the Spratly Islands, a chain of islands and islets in the South China Sea.
The Navy has run aground the BRP Sierra Madre since 1999 to serve as the Navy’s outpost for the Marines stationed there to assert sovereignty in the area.
As part of its capability upgrades, the Navy on Wednesday commissioned four of its recently acquired ships: a landing dock vessel; the BRP Tarlac; and three landing craft heavy ships.
“With more assets that we have right now, we now have vessels that are able to withstand the sea conditions in that area,” Mercado said.
He added that they had not yet received any recent incidents of harassment by Chinese ship of the Navy’s resupply mission to the West Philippine Sea.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.