The Western Command (WESCOM) has ruled out the presence of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province as the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT 3) arrives to take over the internal security operations in northern Palawan based in Brgy Minara, Roxas.
WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina made the clarification in an interview following the welcome and arrival honors for the troops and officers of MBLT 3 headed by its commanding officer Lt. Col. Ramil Holgado at the port of Puerto Princesa City.
He said despite the fact that MBLT 3 was involved in operations against the Jihadist militant and kidnap for ransom group ASG in Sulu, its arrival in Palawan was a “regular schedule”of the Philippine Marines Corps (PMC) as it will replace the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 (MBLT 12) which is due for retraining in Manila.
For the record, wala namang Abu Sayyaf ang WESCOM area,” Medina said, pointing out that “lately for the past two years, there is no ASG in Palawan”.
Prior to the arrival of the MBLT 3 in Palawan, Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) commander Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega was quoted as saying that he is confident about the “warfighting” capabilities of the battalion against the members of the ASG and the NPA.
Medina said he too, had witnessed how the battalion had fought against the ASG when he was still the commander of WESMINCOM but reiterated that their transfer to the province was to relinquish the Manila-bound MBLT 12.
“Siguro in the past may nababalitaan sila na pumupunta dito like ‘yong Dos Palmas kidnapping incident but since nandoon ako sa Zamboanga never na may nag-attemp ulit na ASG na pumunta sa Palawan. Never silang nag-attempt talaga mula noong 2017 hanggang ngayon, walang nag-attempt for the record,” Medina said.
He said that all units of the Marines undergo re-training twice a year.
In Palawan, he said the MBLT 3 will continue community support programs to fight insurgency and to convince their members to return allegiance to the government and receive help from the government.
“With their expertise sa Zamboanga, particularly sa Sulu — we will bring their expertise to northern Palawan on civil military operations. They are very successful in the 2nd District of Sulu because nakuha natin doon… we have brought many stakeholders to join the programs. So, we are hoping that MBLT 3 can further shape up northern Palawan
In its three years tour of duty in Sulu, MBLT 3 conducted a total of 104 major military operations and 1,976 minor operations.
The battalion was also instrumental in the surrender of 39 personalities, 24 of whom were former ASG fighters.
Three of more than 400 soldiers of the unit are from Palawan.
Private 1st Class Anthony Remo, a resident of Brgy. Iraan, Rizal, said that Palawan is a peaceful province compared to Sulu.
“Masaya kasi parang bakasyon na rin namin, for three years ko sa serbisyo dalawang beses pa lang ako nakauwi dito kaya masaya na kahit papaano malapit na lang sa pamilya ko. Napaka-peaceful rin kasi ng Palawan kumpara sa Sulu na napakalayo,” he said.