Philippine Marines to beef up force in western Palawan

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MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Marines will beef up its presence in its command post in Palawan, the western part of the Philippines facing the disputed West Philippine Sea for “internal and territorial defense operations.”

Lieutenant Colonel Neil Estrella, spokesman of the Western Command, said that there is “plan in motion” to deploy a brigade headquarters in Palawan.

The brigade headquarters will provide support to the two battalions already stationed in Palawan.

Setting up a brigade headquarters will allow easier access to artillery and armor support units.

Estrella said they need to beef up the two Marine battalions with a brigade because a brigade has more armor, more artillery, and support units. “It’s not actually an expansion but more of realigning the troop deployment to enable them to give ample support to their requirements,’’ Estrella said in Filipino.

The Philippine Marines used to have a brigade headquarters in the 1970s, but was moved to Mindanao due to the ongoing conflict there.

Meanwhile, Estrella denied being the officer quoted in a report by the Japanese news organization Kyodo as saying US Marines were also seen to set up “an advanced command post” in Palawan.

The report, quoting a senior military officer, said the plan includes deploying 50 to 60 US Marines and converting a 246-hectare Marine Corps reservation in Samariniana town in Brooke’s Point, in southeastern Palawan, into a joint marine operational command.

The officer added in the report that the 1.1-kilometer airstrip inside the reservation will be extended to 2.4 km to accommodate big U.S. military transport planes. The construction work was reported to start in September in time for the annual Philippine-U.S. amphibious landing exercise in Palawan.

But Estrella did not confirm the report, and also denied he was the officer quoted in the article.

He said there were also no US Marines the area.

“Sabi ko hindi naman ganun kadali yun, why would I mention that eh hindi naman ako US Embassy (I said it’s not really that easy and why would I mention something like that when I’m not from the US Embassy),” he told reporters.

He also said the plans of expanding the airport have been long considered, but for commercial purposes and not for the military.

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