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REINFORCEMENT | Marine battalion deployed in capital region as fight against virus intensifies
March 25, 2020 , 11:03 PM

By Manny Mogato

(March 25, 2020) – The military will deploy battle-tested Marines to man checkpoints in the capital region for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine, a naval spokeswoman said on Wednesday as the government steps up its battle against an unseen enemy – the globally spreading coronavirus.

Lieutenant Commander Maria Christina Roxas told reporters about 500 Marines, who completed re-training and ready for deployment to fight the small but violent pro-Islamic State militants from the Abu Sayyaf, were diverted to reinforce troops enforcing a lockdown in Metro Manila.

“The deployment of the sailors and Marines is consistent with the flag officer-in-command’s directive to proactively assist the national government and other non-government organizations in their resolve to contain this pandemic,” said Roxas.

Troops from the 12th Marine Battalion Landing Team will be assigned to man checkpoints and roadblocks in Marikina City, the eastern gateway, and in Muntinlupa City, the southern borders of the capital region. They will also prevent people from the eastern Rizal province and southern Cavite and Laguna provinces to enter the capital.

Roxas said the battalion, originally projected to be sent to Jolo island by the end of this month, will be re-deployed “to support the fight against this unseen enemy that threatens public health and security.”

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf, a violent group known for kidnappings, bombings and beheadings in the volatile south, before he steps down from office in 2022. The Abu Sayyaf Group has been holding six hostages, five of them Indonesian fishermen taken at gunpoint in Malaysian waters. The sixth was a local doctor who was rescued recently by pursuing troops.

Duterte has ordered a redeployment of troops to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease which has killed 38 and sickened 636 people in the country, declaring a unilateral truce to concentrate on the war against the virus.

The Maoist-led guerrillas from the New People’s Army will implement its own unilateral ceasefire at midnight on Thursday. But the rebels made it clear the truce was in response to a UN call for a global ceasefire, not with the president’s offer. Both sides have doubted the sincerity of the cessation of hostilities.

In a statement, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Espinosa, 12th Marine Battalion Landing Team commander. said his men will be “always steadfast in performing our mission in tandem with fleet forces.”

“It will test our mettle, but we will never falter, we will hold the line,” Espinosa said. “Your Marines will work silently, out of prying eyes of the general public. This is who we are, this is what we do… this is the essence of soldiery.”

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