The Philippine government has opened up its airspace and territorial waters to US forces as the desperate search continues for a missing Marine.
Today (Saturday, August 11) Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they were doing everything possible to assist in the search for the US Marine commando who went missing from the USS Essex during ‘routine operations’ in the Sulu Sea.
“A US marine fell from a US ship while traversing Philippine waters. We allowed the entry of rescue ships and aircraft,” he said, confirming that the US military made the request to give way for an all-out search and rescue missions.
He also dismissed concerns about local terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State-affiliated Abu Sayyaf, operating on the island of Sulu and surrounding areas.
The missing US Marine is a member of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The USS Essex first reported him overboard at 9.40pm on Thursday.
Lietenant General Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said they also dispatched their own ships and aircraft within the first few hours of the search being launched.
“We initially dispatched air search and rescue team during the first few hours after it was reported but without positive result.” he said.
Lorenzana said the US military had not asked for assistance for the search and rescue mission, which is covering about 3,000 square nautical miles in the Sulu Sea and the Surigao Strait. “As of now, there is still no update if the Marine is already recovered,” he added.
In a statement for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Colonel Chandler Nelms said: “As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers. We remain committed to searching for and finding our marine.
US Navy Captain Gerald Olin added: “All of our sailors, marines and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search and rescue operation.”
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