Philippine Marine Corps Certifies First Operationally Ready Maritime Security Battalion

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin completed his undergraduate and graduate education at a Texas university and has studied extensively in China. As a former Marine Corps intelligence analyst, he worked in the Indo-Pacific region. His areas of expertise include PLA modernization, particularly PLAN/PLANMC and its expeditionary capabilities, as well as CCP and Chinese domestic politics. He also runs the Sino Talk brand on Instagram and Twitter and is the IndoPacific Desk Chief for Atlas.

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On July 1st, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) certified the 4th Marine Battalion as an Operationally Ready Maritime Security Battalion (MARSECB) at the BNS Grandstand Parade Ground at Fort Bonifacio, located in Taguig City, Metro Manila. The ceremony marks the culmination of the unit’s Retraining and Refurbishment Program.

Leadership of 4th Marine Battalion in formation during certification ceremony (Photo: Philippine Marine Corps Official Facebook Page)

Operationally Ready Maritime Security Battalion

The battalion, based in southern Palawan, began the program in the last three to four months to reconfigure the unit from a Battalion Landing Team (BLT) capable of acting as a Marine Amphibious Ready Unit (MARU) to one capable of conducting missions in littoral environments. The unit will primarily use fiberglass reinforced plastic watercraft instead of KAAV-7A1s as their primary mode of transportation. Furthermore, the boats would be used in the battalion’s new mission of securing the Sea Lane of Communications (SLOCs) and littoral areas surrounding its base of operations in southern Palawan.

Philippine Marines from the 4th Marine Battalion practicing firing rifles from platform in June 2024 (Photo: Philippine Marine Corps Official Facebook Page)

The unit received training on how to conduct amphibious raids and other littoral operations using the new boats. The personnel also underwent training on other areas that would increase their proficiency at operating in the littoral areas and SLOCs, such as shooting firearms from boats and other floating platforms.

Overhead photo of 4th Marine Battalion in formation during certification ceremony at Fort Bonifacio (Photo: Philippine Marine Corps Official Facebook Page)

The PMC Commandant, Major General Arturo G. Rojas, PN(M), attended the certification ceremony and delivered a short speech. Rojas highlighted the significance of the 4th Marine Battalion’s transformation for “littoral maneuvers in the southwestern frontier of archipelagic defense.” Furthermore, the Commandant pointed out to the unit the “importance of being the most ready as the key ingredient” in controlling the country’s SLOCs. He then posed with unit personnel for photos and toured various displays of the unit’s equipment and weapons.

Philippine Marines standing at display of communications equipment the unit will use in its new mission (Photo: Philippine Marine Corps Official Facebook Page)


The 4th Marine Battalion’s certification as a MARSECB illustrates that the Philippines is committed to modernizing the PMC to conform to the Philippines’ new Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC). However, it is likely the battalion’s certification is part of the PMC’s plan to certify multiple battalions to conduct security missions in littoral environments. The Philippines developed the CADC as part of its transition from internal defense to defense against external threats. As part of this concept, the Philippine military is in the process of developing new or reacquiring capabilities that would assist it in conducting conventional military operations against an opposing military.

The PMC plays a significant role in the concept since they are tasked with conducting defensive and offensive operations in amphibious or littoral environments. The MARSECBs fit into the new concept because they would have the capabilities that they previously did not when they were configured as BLTs. The most significant limitation was the battalion’s dependence on KAAV-7A1s for amphibious transport. The armored vehicles move slowly through water and cannot operate in certain sea states. Furthermore, the PMC only has eight KAAVs available for amphibious operations, which would cause severe limitations on which units could use them for missions.

Another limitation that would prevent the BLTs from fulfilling the new mission is a lack of knowledge and experience in operating in the littoral environments as envisioned in the CADC. The battalions’ mission of securing SLOCs and littoral environments would require them to develop entirely new techniques and procedures to effectively work in the new operating environment. The PMC will also make the unit the testbed to develop the necessary techniques and procedures for use by other units after they are certified as MARSECBs. The battalion would also test new equipment that the PMC believes will enhance the units’ capabilities. The MARSECBs would overcome the lack of knowledge through bilateral training with units from the United States Marine Corps, such as its Marine Littoral Regiments and the Marine Expeditionary Units’ amphibious raid companies. The bilateral training would consist of learning from the Marine units how to conduct similar missions in littoral environments and exchanging lessons learned. For example, the battalion would be interested in how their USMC counterparts plan and conduct amphibious raids against objectives located in littoral environments.

Overview of Philippine Marine Corps’ four new Marine Specialized Forces (Photo: X/@Aaron_MatthewIL)

The PMC chose the 4th Marine Battalion to be certified because of its urgent requirement for the Philippines to implement sections of its modernization process, specifically littoral maneuver forces. The PMC views the implementation of its littoral maneuver forces with increased urgency after China’s increasing aggressive actions in the South China Sea (SCS), such as at the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal. The Philippine military would likely use battalions to increase its monitoring capabilities at Philippine-claimed SCS features and littoral regions along the coast. The 4th Marine Battalion would be suited for both because it is based in southern Palawan, close to the claimed SCS features and important SLOCs in the area. The Philippines, however, would use the battalions only under certain circumstances because of the potential for the China Coast Guard, China Maritime Militia, or the People’s Liberation Army Navy to act aggressively against the boats. The Philippine military would also be hesitant to employ the units on resupply or monitoring missions because of the potential for China to use the missions to justify its aggressive actions. Furthermore, the military would be hesitant to use the units because it does not share the same view as the Philippine Coast Guard regarding its transparency campaign.