The Philippine Marine Corps’ (PMC) 4th Marine Brigade began Exercise Irugi 02-24 on February 11th, its first exercise of 2024 in Batanes, Cagayan, and Ilocos Norte provinces. The exercise is designed to test the brigade’s and its attached unit’s operational control and capabilities as a “Readily Deployable Force” for contingencies in its Area of Operations (AO). Irugi will also test the brigade’s ability to be ready to deploy to any location in the Philippines within one hour.
The contingencies range from Humanitarian Disaster and Relief (HADR) to conducting counter-landing operations and “force-oriented reconnaissance.” The exercise will also consist of live-fire exercises using various small-arms, crew-served weapons, and mortar systems.
The brigade’s associated battalions, Marine Battalion Landing Teams 8 and 10, will also conduct rapid deployment exercises to the nearest airports. Specifically, the exercise will consist of two rifle companies and element of the battalion’s command element moving to the airports.
The exercise also includes PMC reservists to test the reserve unit’s ability to integrate and operate with the PMC’s active-duty component.
The exercise comes as China made statements against the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s planned troop and facility expansion in nearby Batanes province. The exercise’s emphasis on the unit’s ability to rapidly deploy illustrates that the APF understands how strategically valuable the AO is in any conflict with China.
The PMC is likely preparing for the possibility that the 4th Marine Brigade would defend Northern Luzon from a possible incursion from China to occupy Batanes province. That is why the units are practicing how to conduct counter-landing operations in addition to testing their ability to rapidly deploy on short notice. However, the brigade also understands that it must also include HADR exercises because it will be more likely to be tasked with helping in those kinds of scenarios than with conventional operations.