Marines guarding Ayungin get award for bravery

Philippine Marines who were deployed for almost five months aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a military detachment on Ayungin Shoal, get Bronze Cross medals from Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deverat

PALAWAN (UPDATED) - A Philippine government vessel successfully delivered fresh troops, food, and water to a military outpost on a disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Saturday, after evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path.

The new troops raised the flag on Sunday, replacing Marines who had been stationed for almost five months at the outpost on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).

The outpost is BRP Sierra Madre, a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.

There, around nine Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent …

   

AYUNGIN DEFENDERS.

AYUNGIN DEFENDERS. Marine 1st Lt.Mike Pelotera and members of his platoon salute the national flag during the ceremony for outgoing security personnel of the BRP Sierra Madre at Naval Forces West head

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—For their bravery—maybe endurance should be added—they received bronze medals, a haircut and a shave, and two weeks for rest and recreation.

The nine members of the Marine platoon who manned the Philippine detachment aboard the rusting BRP Sierra Madre grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) for five months got their reward upon setting foot on mainland Palawan province on Monday.

Bearded to the last man and most with long, unkempt hair, the Marines were honored by the Western Command (Wescom) at 9:30 a.m. at Naval Forces West headquarters in Ulugan Bay in this city facing the West Philippine Sea.

Wescom Commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda presided over the ceremonies honoring 1st Lt. Mike Pelotera and his men: Technical Sergeants Julio Ventoza and Joselito Panganiban, Sergeants Edwin Galvan and Rey Sarmiento, …