Armed Forces of the Philippines

Philippine Marines hold counter-landing drills in Ilocos Norte 

Bea Cupin

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Philippine Marines hold counter-landing drills in Ilocos Norte 

LIVE FIRE DRILL. Philippine Marines hit a target floating off waters in front of Burgos town during a counter-landing drill on June 15, 2024.

Bea Cupin/Rappler

The Marines – and even local officials – take turns firing at targets floating in waters off the coast of Burgos, a town north of the Philippines

ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – The Philippine Marines on Saturday, June 15, practiced a counter-landing drill in Burgos located in the far north of the Luzon island facing the Taiwan Strait.

At the 4th Marine Brigade in Camp Cape Bojeador, personnel from the Marine Field Artillery Battalion and even government officials took turns firing the 105MM and 155MM Howitzers at targets floating as far as eight kilometers away from the beachhead.

Philippine Marines hold counter-landing drills in Ilocos Norte 

The drill is part of the 2024 Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA2024), this year’s iteration of the yearly drills between the Philippine and United States Marines.

The scenario was straight forward: troops were supposed to stop a “foreign aggressor” in the form of floating devices from reaching Burgos shores.

Brigadier General Vicente Blanco, commander of the 4th Marine Brigade, explained that counter-landing drills are designed to help the Marines relearn what’s supposed to be its core task: territorial defense.

The brigade used to be based in Sulu, and the bulk of its operations focused on counter-terrorism.

“It’s like we forgot our number one task, which is territorial defense operations…. We were deployed here for that purpose – to establish a credible territorial defense,” he told media after the drills.

Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta Marcos, cousin-in-law of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as well as Presidential Assistant for Northern Luzon Assistant Secretary Ana Carmela Remegio pulled the lanyard to launch the Howitzers after the first rounds were launched by the Marines’ Field Artillery Battalion.

The US Marines served only as observers during the drill. Blanco explained that their American counterparts had earlier held lectures to help the Marines relearn how to use existing assets.

While the Burgos event was ongoing, American troops also held an aerial live fire drill that took off from Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

The Taiwan question

Blanco was quick to acknowledge bigger geopolitical tensions – the waters where the drill took place faced Taiwan. Burgos, after all, is a quick plane ride away from the island.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been steadily rising, with China insisting on its reunification with democratically-governed Taiwan.

Blanco told reporters that tensions there are also a concern for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “We are preparing for any eventualities that may arise. You can say it – it’s [because of] the distance,” he said.

“Malapit lang ‘yung Taiwan (Taiwan is very near). And we need to prepare for it, not necessarily to join the fight. So, furthering our capabilities is also meant to further humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” he added, noting the Filipino population – of mostly overseas workers – based in Taiwan.

Several activities are still lined up under MASA 2024 – a static display in Camp Cape Bojeador, and another in the Marines’ training headquarters in Cavite. – Rappler.com

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    Prepare Prepare Prepare No such thing as too much preparation

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.