Friday, July 3, 2009

Navy Takes Stance in the Challenge of Ending Insurgency, Lawlessness

By: LTCOL EDGARD A AREVALO PN(M)
Director, Naval Public Affairs Office

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines ordered the security forces to intensify the conduct of combat operations. The President issued the instruction to hasten the elimination of insurgency and to crush lawlessness violence in southern Philippines. In compliance, the Navy redeploys Marine Battalion Landing Team-8 (MBLT-8) to the operational area after undergoing six months of retraining and refurbishing and more than ten years of notable combat accomplishments in the provinces of Lanao, Sulu, and Basilan.

At 0900H Friday 03 July 2009, Vice Admiral Ferdinand S Golez, the Navy Flag Officer in-Command presides over a send-off ceremony for the Officers and men of MBLT-8 under the command of Major Yuri Pesigan. Fort San Antonio Abad, the home of the Fleet-Marine Team of the Philippine Navy, hosts this solemn and meaningful rite to be witnessed by the family, friends, and loved ones of the marines. MGen Ben Dolorfino, the Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, Rear Admiral Geronimo Defensor, the Commander of the Philippine Fleet, and other officers from the General Headquarters provides the boost in the morale of the members of MBLT-8 – one of the few of the AFP’s naval power that can be projected on land.

After the ceremony, the Marines will board the awaiting M-35 trucks that will bring them to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City for the last leg of their trip to their deployment area at the Naval Forces West area of operations in the island province of Palawan. MBLT-8 will “relieve in place” Marine Battalion Landing Team-9. The latter will board the same cargo aircraft that will bring them to Naval Forces Western Mindanao area of operations that has jurisdiction over Sulu and Basilan among other provinces in the area. The intensified drive to flush the Abu Sayyaf bandits and other lawless groups from their lairs in southwestern Mindanao takes a sharp turn in favor of the government with this fresh input of a battalion of battle-hardened marines.

Meanwhile and coinciding with the same ceremony, 5 navy vessels will also be deployed to their respective operational areas. Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Magat Salamat (PS-20) and BRP Federico Martir (PG-385) have underwent and completed their regular maintenance and are ready for sea. The 3 brand-new Multi Purpose Attack Crafts (MPACs) will also be deployed to SulBaTZ (Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-tawi, and Zamboanga) area for their operational area deployment training after their crew has completed their familiarity and aboard ship training.

The addition of these 5 navy vessels is expected to help boost Team AFP’s quest for dominance in their areas of operation in terms of maritime law and law enforcement, seaborne operations, humanitarian activities, and direct and support roles in internal security operations. Especially the MPACs that can cruise at top speed of up to 42 knots, mounted caliber 50 machine guns, and load up to 20 fully armed Marine Force Recon or Navy SEAL Teams, they will beef up the much needed floating assets in Palawan and Mindanao to run after violators of maritime, environmental, anti-drug, tariffs and customs, and immigration laws.

Taken altogether, this deployment of naval assets and the rotation of two marine battalion landing teams (MBLTs 8 and 9) is a welcome development in the operational landscape in southern and western Philippines. It is seen as another step to the realization of the navy’s quest to attain prominence in counter-insurgency operations and support to law-enforcement actions against the kidnapper Abu Sayyaf, rouge MILF, and other lawless groups operating in Mindanao and island provinces in southern and western Philippine fronts. The send-off of these navy vessels and marine personnel are the Navy’s contribution to Team AFP’s mandate to intensify humanitarian and development endeavors, win peace, maintain security, and seize a major role in nation-building.

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