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Pursuant to AFP General Order Nr. 319 dated November 2, 1950, the organization of "A" Company, 1st Marine Battalion as a unit of the Philippine Naval Patrol was authorized and thus, the Philippine Marines was formed. However, it was under the mandate of the then Secretary of National Defense Ramon Magsaysay that "A" Company was activated on November 7, 1950 at the Naval Operating Base in Cavite. Considering the projected dangers of its employment, only volunteers were accepted to this special unit. Six officers and 206 enlisted personnel, mostly World War II veterans, formed the core of this organization, which eventually became the cutting edge of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Then LTSG Manuel Gomez, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy Class 41 and a graduate of Armor Tactics in Fort Knox Kentucky was designated as the first commanding officer. Upon him rested the direct responsibility of training, equipping and organizing the newly established unit. Lieutenant Gomez, in his first meeting with the staff uttered his vision:
"The task of training this young men into Marines vested upon us: today, as we start training them, we will be striking the first hammer blow in forging the "cutting edge" of the Armed Forces." The ExO that time was LTJG Gregorio Lim who served as training and planning officer. The first officers included LTJG Fernando Nuevo, LTJG Otillo Jaro, ENS Wilfredo Agaloos, ENS Bergonio Luna, 2Lt Francisco T San Miguel and 2Lt Agapito Natividad. With everything in order, the training began and the lives of these 1st Marine Company members were never the same again.
After barely five months of training, the unit was ordered to conduct its first amphibious assault at Umiray, Quezon on April 19, 1951. To the disappointment of the members, however, they seized their first beachhead unopposed. Instead, this group of daring warriors had their baptism of fire on June 4 of the same year in Nueva Ecija. From the sounding of the reveille to taps, they trained and worked hard in their bid to attain the best in soldiery. When a team of U.S. Marine Drill Instructors arrived during the initial phase of the training, Lieutenant Gomez was asked whether the Philippine Marines would be able to keep up with the outstanding traditions of the U.S. Marines. To this, the young Lieutenant replied: "The Filipino Marines do not intend to bask on the glories earned by the Marines of other countries. When we shall finally assault some bloody beaches, we will start our own traditions." Since that daring act in Nueva Ecija, the Marines have never left the combat zone. They saw action practically in all parts of the country. While engaged in fight against the Huks in Luzon, they also formed detachments of platoon and squad size units deployed against pirates
and smugglers plying the sully sea frontiers in Mindanao and against other lawless elements. Likewise, they were deployed in various provinces in Luzon and the Visayas. In due course, the need to augment the Company was realized albeit gradually. As such, on November 7, 1955, it was expanded to a battalion of two rifle companies with Headquarters and Service Company under then Lieutenant Commander Gregorio L. Lim PN as Battalion Commander. Years later, on November 7, 1961, the 3rd Marine Company was activated. Eventually, a Weapons Company was also activated on April 10, 1966 to provide the necessary fire and anti-tank support for the Philippine Marine Battalion as well as to provide ceremonial guard and security to VIP's. Two years later, the Philippine Marine Battalion was expanded to a force of nine rifle companies. In an effort to uphold the country's sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), Marines were deployed in and occupied eight islands of the KIG in 1971. The covert and highly top secret operation signified the first use of Marines in a strategic nature. The Marines survived the loneliness, psychological stress, and grueling monotony of guarding the isolated islets of which the largest is Pag-Asa Island with a land area of 32 hectares. The real test for the Corps came when national unrest again swept the country in the early 70's. The secessionist group in Mindanao deployed its troops for open hostilities against the government while the dormant communist movement in Luzon was showing indications of resurgence. During these critical times, the people clamored for the deployment of the Marines in their provinces to keep peace. As such more Marine units had to be activated and fielded to join other units in these areas of conflict. On February 21, 1972, the unit was re-designated as the Philippine Marine Brigade. With the activation of the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team on October 10, 1972, 12 rifle companies fielded the units. Moreover, the Headquarters Service Group and a Combat Support Group were activated. Commodore Rudiardo A Brown AFP was the first star rank to be addressed Commandant followed by Brigadier General Rodolfo M Punsalang AFP. Finally, on July 1, 1972, the Philippine Marine Brigade became a major unit of the Navy. The following year, the 3rd Marine Battalion was activated and the Marine Training Group became an adjunct to the organization. The beginning of the Muslim strife in Lanao in the middle part of 1972 signified the outburst of a long Secessionist War in the MindanaoSulu areas. The secessionist rebellion erupted with the simultaneous attacks at Camp Amai-Pakpak in Marawi City and a PC Detachment near Pantar Bridge on October 1, 1972. A Marine contingent rushed from its Headquarters in Maria Cristina, Baloi, Lanao del Norte to quell the uprising. The Marines succeeded in retaking Pantar Bridge under stiff enemy resistance, then move towards Camp Amai-Pakpak to reinforce the beleaguered PC elements. The next day, 18 Marines and eight constable, backed by two armored cars, drove on to Mindanao State University and subsequently regained control of the campus, liberating about 200 civilian hostages including a Japanese Ambassador. It was after this
incident that the 1st Provisional Tactical Battalion (PTB) in Lanao was recognized as an outstanding tactical unit. Notably, on June 1, 1976, the Philippine Marine Brigade and the Marine Training Group were designated as the Philippine Marines and the Philippine Marine Training Center respectively. From 70's to the 80's, over 300 amphibious and sustained ground operations were conducted by the Marines exacting enemy casualties in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. Among these combat exploits were the Liberation of Marawi, Siege of Camp Seit, Battle of Punai, Battle of Sibalo Hill, Labangon Encounter, Operation "Pamukpok", Operation "Maso", Operation "Batikus", Operation "Kahil", Battle of Tarawakan and the Battle of Karundong. The 80's saw the resurgence of communism in the country. This new development once again triggered the need to deploy more Marine units in communist-infested areas. This allowed the Philippine Marines to prove once more their effectiveness in winning the hearts and minds of the people. On June 20, 1983, during the second month of a three-month combat operation covering 7 provinces and 700-kilometer distance from Davao del Norte northward to Surigao Del Sur, the 5th Marine Battalion decimated a 70-man band of New People's Army regulars belonging to the Main Regular Guerilla Unit (MRGU) in Valencia, Bukidnoon. Thirty two rebels were killed and 21 assorted high-powered firearms recovered which tremendously caused a major setback on the Local Communist Movement. On July 3, 1984, in another major encounter, the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team under the 3rd Marine Brigade almost wiped-out a regular platoon in tugbok District, Davao City. Based on captured enemy documents, the Communist in Mindanao assessed in 1983-1987 that they never felt the pinch of the AFP operations except in those two incidents. The 90's witnessed the emergence of a new terrorist group in Mindanao - the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG). On February 1993, the ASG hugged national attention when it launched a series of kidnappings in Basilan Province. Among the kidnapped victims were Father Blanco, a Claretian priest in Basilan and Luis Anthony Biel III, the 5-year old son of a transport magnate. The 2nd Marine Brigade, then under BGEN GUILLERMO R RUIZ AFP who was the concurrent Commander of the Basilan Island Command, launched 14 major operations that led to the escape of Father Blanco, the safe release of Biel and the capture of the ASG stronghold - Camp Al-Madinah. On November 7, 1995, the Philippine Marine was renamed as the Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy. Over the years, the Corps has evolved from a company of volunteers to three Marine Brigades and one Marine Reserve Brigade, ten Battalion Landing Teams, a Combat Support Brigade, one Reconnaissance Battalion, a Training Center, Headquarters Battalion and Marine Security Escort Group. Recently, hostilities in Mindanao erupted once more and perpetrated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Hashim Salamat. The 1st Marine Brigade under BGEN EMMANUEL R TEODOSIO AFP was redeployed in Cagayan de Oro City from Palawan. The brigade barely unloaded its
equipment on March 16, 2000 at the 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army when the MILF took the Kauswagan Town Hall and held hostage more than 300 civilians. By sundown, Kauswagan was liberated from the MILF by 1MBDE with its OPCON units (the Combat Service Support Brigade, the MBLT-1/4/10 and the 61st Marine Reconnaissance Company). The resulting battle accounted for eight enemy body counts. In the ensuing battle, the government forces were able to capture Camp John Mack and Camp Bilal, which served as the springboard for MILF offensive operations. Two officers and 36 men were wounded during the final assault. Due to setbacks it experienced at the Municipality of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, the MILF consolidated its forces at the Maguindanao area. The MILF rebels occupied the stretch of Narciso Ramos highway, setting up checkpoints and extorting money from motorists plying that area. The 3rd Marine Brigade arrived in Maguindanao on April 16, 2000. Despite warnings from government to vacate the Narciso Ramos highway, the MILF rebels remained adamant. On April 29,2000, the 3rd Marine Brigade with its OPCON units (MBLT-2/6/9 and 62 Marine Reconnaissance Company) under the 6ID OPLAN "DOMINANCE" was tasked to clear the Narciso Ramos Highway. The operating elements of the Marines encountered stiff resistance from the MILF rebels who were entrenched in fortified connecting bunkers. As such, 1MBDE was redeployed to Balabagan, Lanao del Sur to augment the beleaguered 3MBDE for the final clearing operations of Narciso Ramos Highway, resulting into the capture of Camp Sarmiento and Camp Bushra. The Marines scored 30 enemy body counts and apprehended 3 others. The operating units also recovered important enemy documents; 11 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, 36 rounds of ammunition, 1 M203 grenade launchers (GL), 11 M16 rifles, 1 garand rifle, 1 M79 GL with 3 live ammo, 1 round HE 81 MM mortar, 1 round illumination, 2 landmines, assorted ammunitions, VHF antenna with cable and voluminous documents. The highway was finally reopened to commuters while the Marines maintained strategic security detachment to deter any further MILF atrocities in the area. Camp Abubakar, the biggest MILF Camp, finally fell on July 10, 2000. This was the result of continuous military operations spearheaded by 1st and 3rd Marine Brigades in Central Mindanao.
MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN CENTRAL MINDANAO
LIBERATION OF KAUSWAGAN
On March 16,2000, elements of the 1st Marine Brigade under the helm of BGEN EMMANUEL TEODOSIO AFP arrived at Cagayan de Oro City on board two (2) LST's. Fresh from Palawan, the Marines of this unit were bound to secure the coastal areas of Lanao del Sur. Unknowingly, while the welcome ceremonies filled the festive atmosphere at Cagayan de Oro City, 300 heavily armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) mujaheedin fighters of the 303rd Brigade, BIAF stormed the municipality of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte. The rebels took hostage about 400 civilians residents, occupied the town hall, and set up defensive positions along the way that cut off the national highway from all traffic. These dreadful developments prompted the 1st Marine Brigade to retake Kauswagan "before sundown". In a classic lightning movement, the Marines motored from Cagayan de Oro to Iligan, then maneuvered via a mechanized-infantry assault to Kauswagan. By mid-afternoon, the first encounter between the Marines of MBLT-4 under MAJ ASSIDAO PN(M) and the MILF ensued. This sparked the bloody and decisive Positional War that eventually dragged on for five months. Meanwhile, as the firefight raged in Kauswagan, reinforcing elements of MBLT-1 with its armor assets linked up with MBLT-4, MILF rebels lay siege on the town hall and employed snipers to repel the attacking Marines. Under the hail of gunfire, a platoon of Marines dauntlessly breached through the enemy lines and caught up with the hostages. One by one, the hostages were plucked out of harm's way and were led to safety. By 1900H, as darkness embraced the scared municipality, Kauswagan was completely liberated from the MILF rebels without a single civilian casualty. The Marines have landed. Backed by a column of V-300 and V-150 Armored Personnel Carriers, elements of MBLT-1 led by LTCOL QUERUBIN PN(M) with his EX-O MAJ OCSAN PN(M), trudged their way towards Camp John Mack, headquarters of 303rd Brigade of MILF. The Marines immediately met stiff resistance. The fierce encounter lasted overnight and soon enough, elements of MBLT-4 reinforced MBLT-1, taking on reverse roles. Artillery fires from the 18th Marine Company and close air support from MG-520 helicopter gunships were called in. This combined arms assault eventually crushed the rebels' stronghold with devastating effect that led to its successful seizure. The first MILF camp in this campaign had fallen. By sunrise, Marines were ready again to pursue the MILF terrorist up to Camp Bilal in the Municipality of Munai. Maintaining the momentum of the offensive, the 1st Marine Brigade, conducted scouring operations towards the Brgys. Of Delabayan and Tambo, all of Munai. The Marines continued to face heavy resistance along the 10-kilometer treacherous corridor. By this time, the enemy had improved their defenses by constructing kilometer-long reinforced
trenches positioned along ridges of critical approaches. Poised to defend their positions from the pursuing Marines, the mujaheedin fighters stubbornly held their ground, resulting in a series of savage firefights heavy losses and casualties. On April 03, 2000, force recon Marines with MBLT's 1 and 4 engaged the enemy in a fierce close quarter battle that eventually force the latter's complete withdrawal from the area. After seven (7) solid days of combat, Munai declared liberated by the Chief of Staff, AFP. The raising of the Philippine flag highlighted the triumphant victory. Before they even had time to savor their victory, the 1st Marine Brigade was immediately pulled out and committed by 4ID as shock troops to reinforce the 402nd Brigade of the Philippine Army in Baloi, Lanao del Norte. Once again, the MILF's headstrong resistance along the 45meter long Baloi bridge hauled up operating Army troopers in the area. While the brigade concentrated its forces to attack Apo Hill, a critical terrain in the vicinity, Force Recon Marine snipers and wheeled 106MM recoilless rifles grappled head-on with the enemy at the bridge. In two day's time, Baloi was cleared and Apo Hill, the MILF relay station for the entire Lanao Province, had fallen to the Marines. Subsequently, the maneuvering elements of the 1st Marine battalion led by MAJ BALUTAN PN(M) spearheaded the assault at Brgy Pak-pangkat and Balut Island, which eventually led to the campaign's first clash ever to erupt in Lanao del Sur. The spill-over of the conflict thus became imminent.
BREACHING THE BLOODIEST HIGHWAY
The battle of Narciso Ramos Highway outshined all offensives in the annals of the AFP's recent history. It was perhaps the fiercest of all the military operations launched in this campaign. The sheer number of casualties on both the enemy and the government side, and the volume of recovered firearms, speak for it. The treacherous highway links the Lanao and Maguindanao Provinces and meets up to Brgy Langkong, the "Arterial Gateway to Camp Abubakar". Controlled by the MILF for years, extortion activities flourished in this place. By April 27,2000, preparations were up to clear the whole stretch. The concept of maneuver adopted a "Double - Spearhead Assault" coming from both ends of the stretch. Emanating from 6th ID area, the 3rd Marine Brigade under BGEN BUENAVENTURA AFP, pushed their way towards the provincial boarder, while the 1st Marine Brigade from the 4ID area breached through the rear in order to crush the enemy from two fronts.. For three long weeks, the Marines ferociously fought running gun battles, employing mechanized-infantry assaults coupled with special operations. From the 1st Marine Brigade's side, MBLT-4 led the frontal onslaught along the highway while MBLTs 1 and 10 assaulted Mt Cabugao, the critical terrain that overlooked the stretch. Meanwhile from the 3rd Marine Brigade's side, the operating force consisted of four Marine Battalions. Scout snipers were called in, thus inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy with extreme lethality. Consequently, the 2nd
Marine Brigade under COL MIRANDA PN(M)(GSC), braced up for the escalation of terroristic activities in the cities and key installations. On the first day of the operations, an inexorable resistance in the vicinity of Brgy. Igabay immediately met the 4th Marine Battalion. At about the same time, the two Marine battalions tasked to assault Mt. Cabugao were heavily engaged. Apparently, the MILF held their ground, possibly expecting a half-hearted attempt to retake their positions. But the Marines of the 1st Marine Brigade were determined to assert their push, fighting fierce uphill battles that forced them to fight intensely. At the highway, the encounter raged with fury as RPGs, B-40 rockets, mortar barrages and heavy machinegun fires raked the positions of MBLT4 and elements of 73rd Light Armor Company. For the next eight hours, the encounter to retake the highway was done. By sunset the headquarters of the 4th Brigade National Guard Division MILF-BIAF fell. The clash left fifty-two casualties on the enemy side including the MILF 4th NGD brigade commander, and a cache of high-powered firearms captured. As daylight broke, the Marines discovered the sprawling abandoned fortified trenches of the MILF and the cache of weapons that were left behind. Meanwhile, at Mt Cabugao, the Marines fought ferociously, knowing that the progress of their movement at the hill would dictate the tempo of the operations at the highway proper. As the enemy cunningly established layers of fortified bunkers and trenches along its slopes and ridges, the effort to assault Mt. Cabugao became a bloody ordeal and challenge to the troops. Undaunted by the seemingly insurmountable barriers, the 1st and 10th Marine Battalions fought with unrelenting resolve, taking down the enemy's fighting positions and eventually securing the flanks of MBLT-4 in a classic team-effort maneuver. The Marines in full force continued to barrel-through all the defense positions of the MILF, taking down major and satellite camps while crossing two provinces. By this time, feats of gallantry filled the stories from the frontlines. The sacrifices have been made, lives have been offered, the blood mixed with soil, as the Marines pushed the enemy to the edge. From the 3rd Marine Brigade arena, MBLTs 2, 6 and 9 with the Force Recon Marines spearheaded the movement from Matanog, Maguindanao. Initially, the objective of the 3rd Marine Brigade was to clear the highway in Matanog of the rebels encamped along both sides of the road vis-à-vis the government forces, before the main effort, the Army's 603rd Brigade and the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, could push through, MBLT2 was tasked to seize Hill 326 from the enemy, while MBLT9 was tasked to seize two enemy strongholds along the highway. The Matanog enemy "blocking force" was heavily fortified and stubbornly defended as it was an outer skirt defense perimeter of Camp Abubakre Al Siddique, the main camp of the MILF. The stretch of NRH in Matanog up to the last Marine detachment in Sitio Teba of Brgy Sappad was entrenched with enemy concrete bunkers from both sides and up to
the front of the farthest military detachments facing north. Apparently, the MILF defensive positions took an inverted "U" shape enveloping the highway's contour and the moving Marines. On D-day 29 April 2000, MBLT9 fired the first salvo-a staccato of automatic fire. Hell broke loose, as continuous exchange of fires became a daily routine. The war in Matanog, Maguindanao had begun. By next day, the mujaheedin fighters 201st Bde MILF-BIAF terrain in the area a dire consequence, rifle companies had maneuvering Marines met heavy resistance from the occupying fortified trenches and bunkers under the and the Internal Defense Command, BIAF. The rolling made it impassable to available armored assets. As the assaulting Marines roughly consisting of two no choice but to move - by foot. change of momentum in favor of the MILF rebels, unrelenting grit and determination, undauntedly seven grueling hours. By then, MAJ GENORING, of MBLT9, called for an indirect fire and close relieve the mounting pressure from the
Stunned by the sudden the Marines, with their held their position for the battalion commander air support in order to onslaught.
Meanwhile, MBLT2 crept undetected towards the enemy stronghold and relay station at Hill 326 and in spite of the stiff resistance, successfully captured the same from the MILF. MAJ GUERRERO PN(M) then led the maneuver elements of MBLT2 to reinforce MBLT9. One by one, enemy held fighting - positions to include the Ibrahim Memorial Training Center of the BIAF at Brgy Sapad, were overrun by the Marines. Soon enough, Matanog was back to government control. The once impregnable defense lines flouted by the MILF fell to the Marines. The rebels turned their backs in shameful disbelief. By then, the 1st Marine Brigade barreled through all defenses of the MILF up to Brgy Langkong, the gateway to Camp Abubakar where the MILF forces had also regrouped and consolidated. Incidentally, it was also at Langkong where "the shortest combat patrol" transpired.. But that's another story. Consequently, after three unrelenting weeks of conflict, the Narciso Ramos Highway was declared cleared and open for public use. Thereafter, three Medals for Valor (posthumous) were awarded for the legendary heroism displayed by the Marines. Each medal spoke of a courageous heart that fought to the last breath… the essence of being a Marine with a life of selflessness.
THE FALL OF BUSHRA
Camp Bushra Somiorang was the second largest camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It is home to Prof. Mimbantas, Vice Chair for Internal Affairs of the MILF and site of the Darul Iman Military Academy. Situated in the forested hinterlands of Lanao del Sur, for years its exact location was kept secret from the outside world. On May 25, 2000 the 1st Marine Brigade jumped off with one objective in mind: seize Camp Bushra Somiorang and destroy all MILF forces in the area. The move to take Bushra was a race against time. The camp was seated in a valley, such that the force that first occupies the surrounding high grounds would spell decisive victory for itself. Speed was a critical factor. To outflank the enemy, MBLT-1 led by LTCOL PASIHUL PN(M) darted away and occupied the surrounding hills of the MILF camps. The Marines fought it out at the peaks with the rebels while the rest of the 1st Marine Brigade spearheaded by the MBLT10 led by MAJ ABID PN(M), cunningly took the frontal movement for the final sweeping assault. Days of intensive artillery barrage from the 18th Artillery Company effectively demoralized the mujaheedin fighters. This classic and organized scheme of maneuver caught the MILF by surprise, eventually flushing them out from the whole complex in complete disgrace. Camp Bushra fell to the Marines on May 29,2000. Its relatively easy capture became a painful stigma to the MILF hierarchy and a significant psychological victory for the government. By then, the Marines were in exceedingly high spirits. The war continued.
THE SEIGE OF SARMIENTO
By the 25th of May, the 3rd Marine Brigade was tasked to clear the vicinity of Bgy. Langkong crossing towards Camp Darul Aman, Sarmiento, Matanog. Here, resistance along the road was a daily given experience but the Marines kept on their momentum with grim determination amidst enemy machine-gun and sniper fires. MBLT-9 took the road leading to Sarmiento while MBLT-2 maneuvered to higher grounds to secure the flanks. Simultaneously, these two battalions attacked the hasty defense of BIAF. Braving the layers of landmines along their path, they efficiently outmaneuvered the enemy. In the heat of battle, the enemy felt the edge of the Marine sword. Camp Sarmiento was finally seized from Overran by the Marines were the residence Vice Chief for Military Affairs and Chief along with the other sensitive offices of the rebels on June 01, 2000. and headquarters of the MILF of Staff, BIAF Al Haj Murad the MILF.
Like a wild boar, Camp Sarmiento proved to be more tedious to tame rather than to capture. In June 07, MBLT-2 heeded the call for reinforcements by the beleaguered army troopers in Camp Rajamuda. This
practically left MBLT-9 alone to defend the once formidable headquarters of the Bangsa Moro Islamic Armed Forces. For 37 days, the Marines fought the rage of MILF fighters to recapture Camp Sarmiento. Everyday, barrages of mortar fires and sporadic bursts of cal.50 heavy machineguns accosted the Marines. Like in Matanog, the enemy had once again surrounded the Marines in a "U" shape manner. MBLT-9 was undersiege. Several desperate attempts to retake the camp from the government forces were made by the MILF's National Guard Division. Notwithstanding the havoc wreaked by the rebels, the Marines held on their ground and gave grim counter-fires. Soon, Marines from MBLT-6 and 7 arrived to tighten the defenses and repulsing the rebels counter attack.
CRUSHING OF ABUBAKAR
Camp Abubakre Al-Siddique, the main camp of the MILF is also home to Salamat Hashim, founder and top leader of the MILF. It is also the site of the Bedis Military Academy and Headquarters BIAF-MILF. Notoriously known as the venue of public brutal executions perpetrated by the MILF, Abubakar has been the pride of the rebels who have repeatedly manifested their final stand to "defend it at all cost". On 06 July 2000, the word got around that Abubakar was to be captured. Marines of the 1st and 3rd Marine Brigade subsequently braced for the final push. The 3rd Marine brigade under 6ID was tasked to clear the Mt. Bitan area while the 1st Marine Brigade was to swoop down at Camp Abubakar's western front. Army units also took their own slice of the pie. From the combined might of the 17th and 18th Artillery Companies, the 105mm howitzer barrage roared away and provided the fire support as Marines on the ground assaulted. At this juncture, Marines of MBLT's 2,6,7 and 9 were already heavily engaged in the vicinity of Camp Sarmiento. Among the casualties was MAJ JANDAYAN PN(M), the newly installed Battalion Commander of MBLT-2 who, despite being wounded, continued to lead his troops in the front. Since this area was the main route leading to the camp, defense lines were more closely packed and fortified. Landmines and heavy machinegun emplacements lined up the ridges of Mt Bitan thus restricting the maneuver and progress altogether. Enemy snipers zeroed in on the advancing Marines but their momentum kept on the assault. Meanwhile, elements of the 1st Marine Brigade with MBLTs 1,4 and 10 maneuvered westward and teamed up against the mujaheedin fighters who were trying to put up their last-ditch stand. July 07, the Marines had successfully breached through the so-called "Stainless Islamic Gate" defense line of Camp Abubakar. Despite the heavy resistance put up by stay behind forces of the MILF, victory for the AFP was inevitable as the rebels' will to fight eroded.
By 08 July 2000, Camp Abubakre Al-Siddique was seized and occupied. In complete disgrace, the MILF hierarchy made a desperate call for "Jihad". The Marines marched on. On 15 September 2000, the Marines participated in the implementation of the SOUTHCOM OPPORD Code Name "Final Option" in conducting military operations in order to rescue the twenty-one (21) foreign and Filipino hostages abducted by the ASG from Sipadan island resort in Malaysia. After two months of continuous operation resulted to the successful rescue of the hostages from their captors and destruction of ASG core organization. After completion of the "Final Option" the Marines were sent back to Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao area. On 07 November 2000, the Marines celebrated the 50th Golden Anniversary. The celebration was highlighted by various activities; CIVAC in Central Mindanao that earned the admiration and respect from the civilian populace in the locality to the Marines and in the AFP in general. Publication of commemorative stamps, Coffee Table Book "Cutting Edge" and the Cite Mar 6. The cake cutting ceremony was highlighted by the presence of his Excellency President Joseph E Estrada as Guest of Honor and Speaker. Despite of the tactical victories as well as strategic advantage of the AFP gained from the successful results in the military campaign in Central Mindanao, the MILF remnants with their "jihad" pronouncement still posed as a major threat against government troops in the region. Since the fall of the MILF strongholds and major camps, the rebels have resorted to ambuscades, harassments and other forms of guerilla tactics, which showed that they are still determined to create instability and terror in the area. In order to counter this, the 2nd Marine Battalion had undertaken continuous effort by being proactive through the conduct of combat clearing operations such as the implementation of 6ID Campaign Plan "MAALAB" and 3MBDE Oplan "Galugad". Likewise the 2nd Marine Battalion also executed its OPLAN "KATAPAT", "SAGASA", LAKBAY DAGAT and PAGBABALIK SAGASA, to properly addressed the threat of the rebels still present in AOR. During the conduct of OPLAN Sagasa from 28 December 2000 to 03 January 2001, the 2nd Marine Battalion encountered undetermined number of MILF rebels at vicinity Barangay Bualan, Barira, Maguindanao which inflicted six (6) rebels killed (body count) and the recovery of assorted high power firearms. As a result of continuous military operations to completely neutralized the MILF threats, the activities as well as the presence of armed sightings have been greatly minimized. Likewise, the rebels have abandoned their sanctuaries in the area. In April 2001, the 2nd Marine Brigade together with the 2nd, 5th Marine Battalion and 63rd Marine Force Reconnaissance Company was deployed in Sulu to augment government troops in confronting the kidnapping problems brought about by the Abu Sayyaf Group. The immediate pull-out of the Marines worries Cotabato City residents. Businessmen and some of them victims of past kidnappings, said they are worried about the resurgence of the kidnapping for ransom now the Marines are gone. Upon arrival at Sulu, the Marines was placed under Task Force Comet, to rescue American hostage Jeffrey Schilling from his captors. After a couple of days, on 12 April 2001, Jeffrey Schilling was rescued by the elements of 2nd Marine Brigade following a brief
encounter with the band of Abu Sayyaf men in Luuk, Sulu after almost eight months of captivity. Schilling took time in thanking COL RENATO MIRANDA PN(M)(MNSA), CO, 2MBDE and 1LT CUSTODIO PN(M) and his men in rescuing him in the outskirt of Barangay Bato-Bato, Luuk town. The worsening security situation in nearby Tawi-Tawi province paved the way for the redeployment of 2MBDE in the province from Sulu. The deployment of the battalions under 2MBDE to the islands of Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, Turtle islands, Sitangkai, Simunol, South Ubian, Tandubas, Sibuto, Bongao and Panglima Sugala. On 12 May 2001, the Corps was deputized by the Comelec to safeguard ballot boxes to insure credible, honest, orderly and peaceful senatorial and local election. The Marines performed its task as vanguards of the people exercising their right of suffrage even as far as remote areas of their area of responsibility. Marine troops also strictly implemented security measures at the Philippine International Convention Center where the Commission on Elections is conducting the canvassing and tabulation of votes for the senatorial and party-list polls. The kidnapping incidents that transpired on the early morning of 27 May 2001 at Dos Palmas Beach Resort, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan was a big blow to the tranquil reputation of said province. Said incident was perpetrated by the Basilan based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who took twenty (20) hostages composed of three (3) American nationals and fourteen (14) Filipino guest and three (3) resort workers. As a reaction, one (1) company of 6th Marine Battalion was airlifted to Palawan Province and became part of Task Force PEACOCK of the WESCOM. Its mission was to crack down the perpetrators in places they might have sought refuge mainly in Southern Palawan. On 01 June 2001, another one (1) company of 6th Marine Battalion was deployed in Basilan to augment government troops in the conduct of pursuit operations against the ASG who perpetrated the Dos Palmas kidnapping and the hostage drama in Lamitan, Basilan. Worsening situation of the kidnapping incidents in Lamitan, Basilan, more Marine troops were deployed in the province to augment government troops to after the ASG (MBLT1, MBLT3, MBLT5, 62ND and 63rd Marine Force Reconnaissance Company. The 2MBDE was also deployed in the province in order to provide logistical support and admin control of the Marine units in the area. On 10 August 2001, the MBLT5 and 63rd Marine Force Reconnaissance Company encountered about 90 heavily armed ASG at Sitio Balawain, Brgy. Lumbang, Isabela. Seven (7) ASG fighters were killed in the said encounter while three others had been seriously wounded. Moreover, three (3) hostages from the Golden Harvest Plantation were successfully rescued. On 221226H August 2001, elements of 3MC and 23MC, MBLT3 and 62nd Force Recon Company while maneuvering towards the alleged enemy encampment at vicinity Palabulabuan Aso encountered more or less one hundred (100) Abu Sayyaf members. Firefight ensued for almost an hour after which the enemy withdrew towards southern portion of the encounter site bringing along with them their undetermined number of killed and wounded comrades which resulted of about seven (7) killed including that of Imam Hapilon and Mukhtar Mingkong who were left behind at the encounter site. Also on 260530H August 2001, 23MC, MBLT3 encountered more or less fifty (50) ASG members, firefight ensued and
lasted for twenty five (25) minutes wherein nineteen (19) ASG member were killed and were buried in a mass grave. As to this date, the Marines is still trekking in the rugged terrain of Basilan, searching for the Abu Sayyaf with full of hope and strong determination to accomplish their given mission. The 1st Marine Brigade and OPCON Marine units were deployed in Lanao del Sur while 3rd Marine Marine Brigade and OPCON Marine units were deployed in Maguindanao securing the stretch of Narciso Ramos Highway for the safety of all commuters passing through the highway. Wherever the Marines are assigned the difference become obvious. As we moved into the coming years, it is but fitting to reflect on the remarkable achievements and contributions made by those generations of Marines to save the courage and honor that bind us all.
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