MANILA, Philippines – The 3rd Marine Brigade headquarters was transferred from Sulu to Palawan to counter the emergence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the island province. Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commandant of the Philippine Marines (PM), said that NPA rebels are now operating in Palawan and the Marines are being deployed in the province as a containing force.
“Basically, the Marines are deployed in Palawan for internal security operations,” Guerrero told reporters following the launching of the Phiblex 2013 held inside Harrier jet hangar of USS Bonhomme, a Marine ground and air strike vessel now docked at the former US Naval facility in Subic Bay. Thousands of Moro rebels from the Moro National Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) are also based in several locations in Palawan, which Guerrero failed to mention in the media interview.
Guerrero admitted that while conducting internal security operations under the operational jurisdiction of Western Command (Wescom), the Marines are also being programmed to be part of the country’s ongoing security shift from internal to territorial defense. Wescom, under the command of Marine Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, has operational jurisdiction over the Marines deployed in the country’s so-called last frontier which has territorial jurisdiction over the country’s regime of islands in the hotly-contested Spratlys archipelago.
Military intelligence showed that after several attempts, the NPA was able to establish a guerilla front in Palawan with a handful of armed fighters. The reports said that the rebels are mostly monitored in western section of the province. On top of this, Palawan has also become the home to thousands of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters from Sulu and other areas of Mindanao. The MNLF rebels relocated to Palawan following the group’s and the goverment’s signing of a peace agreement in 1996.