PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines --
Leaders of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit met in Palawan with Edward Hagedorn, the city mayor, during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2012 to discuss the upcoming civil affairs projects here, Oct. 7.
Gunnery Sgt. Cyrus Nator, civil military officer for the 31st MEU, Navy Lt. Zachary Smith, medical planner for the 31st MEU, and Chief Petty Officer Paul Sexton, lead chief petty officer for the Health Service Support platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, met the mayor for dinner at the Austurias Hotel and spoke about the work the Marines and Sailors would be conducting.
"For as long as we've been doing (PHIBLEX) here, we've always had some part in helping the locals," said Nator. "This year is certainly no different as we have two medical and dental care sites and four separate community relations events."
For the duration of the two week exercise, the Marines and Sailors will undertake numerous civil improvement projects and conduct community relations visits. The group will visit multiple elementary schools throughout the area, mainly in Macarascus and Tagburos.
The corpsmen of the 31st MEU and their Philippine counterparts will also conduct medical and dental capability exercises in the area to provide free care to locals in need.
Finally, the Navy and Marine Corps team will join Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and their Philippine counterparts for two engineering projects chosen by local forces.
"The two areas the projects will take place in do not have the ideal infrastructure for total health coverage," said Hagedorn. "It can become more of a reality when the Marine Corps and Navy come and develop the areas more toward that goal with the aid they provide."
The two planned ENCAP projects include the installation of a new septic tank and leech field (sewage runoff/fertilization system) at one school and the construction of an outdoor seating area for an existing pavilion at another.
The HCA projects are a portion of PHIBLEX, where the 31st MEU conducts bilateral training exercises as well as humanitarian assistance operations throughout the Philippine islands.
"We're here solely for (the locals), but we also gain valuable experience and a chance to build upon our already strong relationship" said Nator.
The Marines and Sailors, alongside their Seabee and Philippine Marine allies, are slated to complete their projects within the two-week period.
"It is a great benefit to the people of Macarascus and Tagburos," said Hagedorn. "For that, we are forever appreciative of the Marine and Navy efforts every year."
PHIBLEX, now in its 29th iteration, is an annually-scheduled bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Philippine forces, aimed at increasing interoperability and strengthening a long standing relationship.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation's force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.