PH, US troops prepare Eastern Samar town to face disaster
GUIUAN, Eastern SAMAR—More than three years after the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) on communities in the Visayas, American and Filipino soldiers have joined hands to build a typhoon-resilient structure that can be used as a classroom and a shelter in times of disaster in this town.
Col. Medel Aguilar, assistant chief of the unified command staff for civil military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the room, which could withstand typhoons with 250-kilometer-per-hour winds, was part of the humanitarian aid component of the Balikatan exercises held in this typhoon-prone Eastern Samar town.
Aguilar said this year’s exercises focused more on humanitarian aid and fighting terrorism instead of joint combat drills. He said the Balikatan activities were still about saving lives.
At least 80 Filipino and American soldiers from the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy and the US Marines are joining the exercises.
Capt. Gabriel Christianson of the US Marines civil affairs said they surveyed the Visayas in September last year to look for an area most suited for civic assistance activities.
Christianson said the team decided to hold activities in Eastern Samar because the province is on the track of typhoons. “Yolanda,” which hit the country on Nov. 8, 2013, first made landfall in Guiuan before devastating Tacloban City in Leyte province.
“It rains so much here,” Christianson said. “This multipurpose building is not only for education but also for [people’s] shelter and protection during disasters.”
The soldiers also built a water catchment facility and a multipurpose hall in Barangay Surok in Guiuan on April 10.
Aguilar said the US-funded typhoon-resilient structure would be turned over to the local government on May 16. He said the room was made of quality materials, like bigger hollow blocks. More iron rods were used to reinforce posts.
Aguilar said all materials were provided by the US Armed Forces while the Philippine military contributed manpower and project supervision.
The soldiers also held disaster-preparedness training sessions and dialogue in Barangay Surok.
They conducted civic and humanitarian assistance activities in other parts of the Visayas, including Capiz province and Ormoc City in Leyte, as part of the Balikatan exercises.