PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN, Republic of the Philippines --
Teachers smiling, children cheering, students lining the sidewalks with American and Filipino flags- For the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Palawan, this was the scene of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2012.
The 31st MEU, currently in support of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, worked with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to repair and supply four elementary schools in Palawan Oct. 24-26.
The four schools, selected by local Philippine Marine commanders, were East Central, Abo Abo, Alfonzo 13, and Sicsican Elementary schools.
“The battalion commanders in the area know where the greatest amount of need is and that is how we selected the schools,” said Maj. Eric J. Mattson.
During these visits they distributed school supplies, such as notebooks and pens, as well as sports equipment to the students at the various schools.
The Filipino Marines see these children as their future so it is important to ensure they get a good education, according to Brig. Gen. Eugenio N. Clement, AFP deputy commandant, Philippine Marine Corps.
“We had $9,500 and we used it all to buy supplies for the children,” Mattson said. “One of the teachers told me they had lots of fields but no sports equipment so we made sure to buy some. We also bought notebooks, pens and pencils to make sure every student received something.”
While every school received supplies, the team of US and Philippine Marines provided assistance according to the individual school’s needs.
According to Mattson, Abo Abo was repainted by combat engineers of the 31st MEU and the Filipino Marines will return to add a second coat. Marines also began a three-week irrigation project at Alfonzo 13 to give the children an area to play that will be completed by Filipino Marines.
“While we are out here we want to start projects to build relationships that will continue once we’re gone,” Mattson said.
To demonstrate their gratitude, the students and faculty from each school performed song and dance routines for the service members.
“We really appreciate the military’s help,” said Emily Ballesteros, a teacher at Sicsican Elementary School. “It is a great experience for everyone and it really benefits the children”