Island facing West Philippine Sea seen boosting coastal defense
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) is considering a donated 10-hectare land on Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro province as a vital location in the military’s “coastal defense strategy” against external threats.
The donation of the property by the municipal government of Lubang is also likely to play a part in infrastructure preparations for the upcoming delivery of the first batch of BrahMos missiles which the Philippines ordered from India.
The weapons will be operated by the PMC’s Coastal Defense Regiment.
Lubang, located within the immediate waters of the Luzon landmass, is about 300 kilometers southeast across Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal—which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but “effectively controlled by China,” as Washington-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative described the disputed area.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines led by PMC commandant Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan and Lubang Mayor Michael Orayani signed a deed of donation on Feb. 16, according to the Marine corps.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by a number of US Marine officials as well as by Sen. Robinhood Padilla.
According to Gaerlan, Lubang Island has long been considered a crucial location because of its proximity to Manila Bay.
It is the largest in the Lubang group of islands and is divided into two municipalities, Lubang and Looc.
“Because of the insurgency, we have neglected the defense of our country. But now that we are getting better, the AFP is slowly working toward the defense of our country,” he said during the signing ceremony.
“We thank everyone in Lubang for the warm welcome and supporting us to have a place here,” he added.
Orayani said he hoped the property donation would boost economic activity in his town and “benefit succeeding generations.”
From Jan. 23 to Feb. 11, 21 officers from the PMC underwent training as operators of the BrahMos missile system.
Their training focused on the operations and maintenance of the logistics package of the shore-based antiship missile system (SBASMS).
“The induction of the BrahMos missile into the Philippine Marine Corps will strengthen your maritime capability and will also contribute to our collective maritime security within the region,” Indian Navy chief of naval staff Adm. Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar was quoted as saying in his speech at the end of the training in India.
“I sincerely hope that you’ll always cherish the bonds of friendship you had during your stay here,” he added.
The country signed an P18.9 billion deal with India’s BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd. in December 2021 for the Philippine Navy’s SBASMS project.
The Philippines is the first foreign customer for the missile system.
“As the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missiles, the BrahMos missiles will provide deterrence against any attempt to undermine our sovereignty and sovereign rights, especially in the West Philippines Sea,” then Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the contract signing.
The package includes three batteries of BrahMos missiles, training for operators and maintainers, as well as the necessary integrated logistics support package.
The system has a maximum range of more than 400 km and a speed of Mach 2.8 (almost thrice the speed of sound), currently the world’s fastest cruise missile.
The initial delivery is expected some time this year.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, the country’s name for the waters within its EEZ. It has similar disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam over the resource-rich Kalayaan or Spratly islands.
In July 2016, an international arbitral tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, invalidated China’s sweeping claims and upheld the Philippines’ rights over its EEZ.
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