The military’s Western Command (WESCOM) is looking to tap navy reserve forces in Palawan to the conduct of patrols of the military, particularly the Philippine Navy in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Wescom chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos broached the idea during the closing ceremony of the Mobilization Exercise (MOBEX) 2023 at the Naval Forces West headquarters in Barangay Macarascas on Friday.

Carlos said bringing in reservists to join the regular patrols in WPS will also boost the Philippines’ efforts to increase the military’s presence in the area as the country also asserts further its territorial claims in the region.

He said with the directive of increasing patrol operations, Wescom also eyes to provide more trainings for the reservists in the province.

“So this is an opportunity if we can integrate our reservists, subject to protocols and directives and guidance from higher headquarters, if we can accommodate in our regular patrols and not just in exercises so that we can level up the integration of our reservists in our operations,” Carlos said.

“Our purpose here is to increase our naval presence and show our flag which has been our resolve,” he added.

He also said as part of Wescom’s increased activities in WPS Philippine Navy ships have conducted more patrol operations having maintained presence for more number of days this year.

“Last year, we were only out at sea 11 days out of 30 days a month with only one ship. So now, we have slowly increased our up tempo and last month we had 100 percent or 30 out of 30 days and we have also increased our naval assets with an average of four ships. These are excellent training opportunities for the reservists in case you are interested in joining us at sea during our regular patrol,” he said.

He further explained that while the idea still depends on higher authorities, he personally sees it as a great opportunity for the military forces to bolster its presence in WPS.

“As commander of Wescom, I don’t see anything wrong with that because that is part of our strategic communication to ensure that we are able to socialize, we are able to promote our strategic communications objectives in WPS,” he said.

The military’s top official in the province commended the around 90 reservists who participated in the recently concluded MOBEX 2023.

He also said although there are still more improvements that can be done, the initial staging of the exercise was laudable despite not having the best training platforms.

“This is a start, and I know that the ships that we provided are very far from being the ideal platforms where we can train together but we will provide more activities like this and hopefully, we can have better platforms,” he said.

“Hopefully in the next iteration of the exercise, we can get better platforms and we can have more reservists who were not able to take advantage of this exercise,” he added.

The week-long MOBEX-23 which was held in the west coast was participated in by around 90 reservists who underwent shipboard trainings aboard Philippine Navy vessels LS-507 and AC 71.

Exercise director Capt. Tirso Chavez said the exercise particularly aims to integrate the reserve force to the operation of navy’s regular force, to test and evaluate the responsiveness of mobilization plan in the maritime situational threat, calamities and disasters which will broaden the skills and knowledge of our personnel leading to mobile mindset and enhanced capabilities of our troops.

He said that the exercise is an opportunity to show to the people that with the right training, capabilities and mindset, the reserve force can become a modern and multi-capable force

He added that it also broadens the role of the reservists not only on Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HADR) during calamities but also “during rebellion, war or invation and for our socio-economic and nation building.”

Chavez emphasized that the role of the reservists has to be brought to a higher level considering the changes in the environment where the military needs a more active participation from the reserve forces.

“As the spectrum of warfare widens in operations other than war becomes more complex, we need the usual reserve forces more on the civilian knowledges, the skills and experiences in advocating peace, development networks and response to national emergencies,” Chavez said.

“It should be emphasized that until recently, security was an issue associated mostly in military, to some extent, political. However, increasing complex interpretations of security have emerged – economic, societal, ecological and environmental aspects have become object of security,” he added.

Meanwhile, CPO Janet Oab, one of the reservists who participated in the exercise expressed gratitude to the navy for initiating the training, saying it has widened her perspective of sense of volunteerism and has added to her capacity to perform her duties.

“Napakalaking tulong sa amin dahil we were able to capacitate ourselves as to how to serve people who are harmed during disaster. At ito ay nagbigay sa amin ng malawak na kaalaman kung paano namin maisasagawa ng tama ang pag-save sa mga nasalanta like for example earthquate at bagyo,” Oab said.

“So with our capacitation, we can serve our fellow men with the same quality of service coming from the organic. Dahil ito ay volunteerism meaning walang monetary incentive or whatsoever but nandoon ang kasiyahan bilang reservist na hindi humihingi ng anumang kapalit,” she added.