By Francis Wakefield
PORT IRENE, Sta. Ana, Cagayan — The commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NoLCom) said yesterday that troops of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 (MBLT 8) now deployed in Northern Luzon are also tasked to safeguard the country’s sovereign interests in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise).
Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, NoLCom chief, made the remark as the MBLT 8, which came from Jolo, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, were deployed for the first time in Northern Luzon to augment forces of Joint Task Force Tala under the 5th Infantry Division for Internal Security Operations (ISO), territorial defense, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
Salamat told The Manila Bulletin that the deployment of the Marines is also meant to safeguard the country’s territory from intrusion by foreign vessels.
“We have vast maritime areas in the northern frontier and farthest island not only in Batanes Group of Island but also in the northern part of the island. We have the Mavulis Island which (we) project to have Marines as well. With that we can promote and manifest our strong claims in the farthest islands of the northern frontier,” Salamat said.
“The Northern Luzon Command also covers not only the geographic region of () province of Region 1, 2, 3 and the Cordillera Administrative Region but also include the vastness of the maritime areas of the Eastern and Western seaboard so we have the Scarborough Shoal and Philippine Rise and the northern border we have the Batanes Group Island,” he added.
Salamat said that aside from the deployment of Marines, having additional air and sea assets serve as a big boost to NoLCom’s effort to ensure regular maritime patrol in the Philippine Rise.
“And that is the marching order of the President, to secure our interests and maritime interests in the Philippine Rise as well,” Salamat said.
When asked of the possibility of Marines securing Scarborough Shoal, Salamat replied: “Not this time. We have to settle some other issues since that is a diplomatic issue that we have to get guidance from the national government.”
Tags: Benham Rise, Emmanuel Salamat, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Internal Security Operations, Joint Task Force Tala, Manila Bulletin, Marine Battalion Landing Team, maritime interests, Philippines-Northern Luzon Command, Scarborough Shoal