PH, US Marines conduct combined amphibious exercise

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2022 07:30 PM

 United States marines gather on a beach during a landing drill in San Antonio, Zambales province, on Oct. 7, 2022. Marines from the US, South Korea, Japan, and Philippines held joint combat drills in different islands to improve interoperability in times of conflict. Francis R. Malasin, EPA-EFE 
United States marines gather on a beach during a landing drill in San Antonio, Zambales province, on Oct. 7, 2022. Marines from the US, South Korea, Japan, and Philippines held joint combat drills in different islands to improve interoperability in times of conflict. Francis R. Malasin, EPA-EFE 

MANILA — Military personnel from the Marine Corps of the Philippines and the United States conducted on Friday an amphibious operation in Zambales.

This is part of the “Kaagapay ng mga Mandirigma mula sa Dagat” or Kamandag exercise, an annual bilateral exercise between the Philippine and US Marines.

This year’s iteration focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The scenario for the amphibious operation: All the roads leading to Zambales and Tarlac are blocked following a major earthquake and a super typhoon. Looting erupted and chaos reigned.

The Marines’ mission was to deliver supplies and restore peace and order through an amphibious operation.

The execution began with the launch of four amphibious assault vehicles of the Philippine Marines from BRP Tarlac.

Soldiers onboard the amphibious assault vehicles then conducted mechanized assault and seized a beach in San Antonio town.

This was followed by air assets providing air tactical and logistical support throughout the amphibious and ground maneuvers.

“This capability is part of our Marine Corps operating concept that is a coastal defense. We have this kinetic capability we can deploy anytime, anywhere na kinakailangan,” Major Emery Torre, director of the Philippine Marine Corps Public Affairs Office told reporters in Zambales.

Four landing aircraft utilities then docked on the shore, carrying supplies and equipment to be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Military forces from Japan and South Korea also participated in the exercise, but only as observers.

Officials from the Philippine and US sides said the bilateral exercise is not aimed at targeting a specific county. 

“We are preparing for any threat that may come later. It is not related to issues meron sa western or northern area. Annually, we conduct this kind of bilateral training to capacitate the PMC and AFP,” Torre said.

“We have continued to build upon on the combined competencies on amphibious operations that is solid, and more importantly the continuing relations with our allies and friends in the region,” Col. Romulo Quemado II, PMC Coastal Defense Regiment commander, said. “We are focused on trying to perfect what we can do together… All of these are centered in building our capacities as one team.”

“What you see here is the strength of democratic allies. There are countries that believe in freedom of democracy and practice it regularly. We can work together. It’s not easy. There’s a lot of coordination. And that is the strength the US brings to this reason. It’s a historic partnership with countries like the PH, Korea and Japan,” US Congressman Seth Moulton said.

Filipino forces were also trained by their US counterparts on how to react and respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) incidents.

This is the first time the CBRN training is incorporated in the Kamandag exercise.

“They have eight minutes to get into full protective suit and check their partners that they’re breathing through N50 mask and that they’re protected,” Chief Warrant Officer III Joshua Dargis of the USMC explained.

He went on, “Specific threats in the region as far as chemical releases, geared towards a little bit… there’s always a chemical and biological threat in another country’s actions or accidents or release in a chlorine plant or destroyed by a tsunami. There’s a potential threat in that.”

Lt. Col. Jose Angelo Dominguez, battalion commander of the Philippine Navy - Marines Reserve, said: “Anytime and any country and any person can do harm sa ating lahat. With the CBRN training and Kamandag, we are prepared and ready to respond any time.”

To further strengthen their capabilities, the Philippine Marine Corps have acquired more assets through the armed forces’ modernization program.

Additional amphibious assault vehicles and rubber boats, among many others, are expected to arrive next year.