Typhoon response puts spotlight on PH military’s limited capabilities
MANILA, Philippines — Consecutive storms in the Philippines in recent weeks have once again put a spotlight on the nation’s overstretched military.
Five successive typhoons in different parts of Luzon exposed the government’s limited disaster response and relief capabilities. Various assets of all branches of service have been deployed, but it did not seem enough.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday acknowledged that “lack of equipment” remained a problem.
“Ang greatest challenge is the lack of equipment. Kasi yung equipment ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) naka-deploy all over the country. Hindi lang Luzon ang nasalanta ng bagyo. Central Philippines, Visayas, sila meron din,” he told reporters.
(The greatest challenge is the lack of equipment. Because the equipment of the AFP are deployed all over the country. Luzon was not the only one devastated by the typhoon. Central Philippines, Visayas, they also have it.)
Disaster response is one of the many tasks of the underfunded armed forces, aside from battling insurgents and securing a sprawling archipelago.
Tropical cyclones Quinta, Rolly, Siony, Tonyo and Ulysses, which battered parts of Luzon and Visayas in the past weeks, have all left trails of destruction in their wakes. Thousands of troops have been deployed for rescue and relief efforts.
An AFP disaster response task force led by chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay was formed in late October in anticipation of Super Typhoon Rolly, the strongest tropical cyclone in the world in 2020.
“Meron tayong equipment, meron tayong tao, but sometimes it is still lacking [We have equipment, we have people, but sometimes it is still lacking],” Lorenzana said.
“We just juggled the troops. Doon sa mga hindi nasalanta, nilipat namin doon sa grabeng pagkasalanta [In areas that were not devastated, we relegated them in places seriously affected],” he added.
As of Monday, the AFP said it had deployed two UH-1H helicopters, two Bell-412 helicopters, two C-295 medium-lift aircraft for disaster response efforts in Cagayan, which was hardest hit from the widespread flooding over the weekend. An air ambulance is also on standby for possible deployment.
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