Thursday, November 18, 2010

Navy ship completes 23-day mission to typhoon-hit Isabela

By: Elena L Aben

Manila Bulletin, Friday, 19 November 2010

MANILA, Philippines – The Phippine Navy (PN) transport ship, BRP Dagupan City (LC 551) returned "home" after completing a 23-day humanitarian mission to typhoon-ravaged Isabela province, which also highlighted the crucial need for the military to acquire a multi-role vessel (MRV) for the country's naval fleet.

Col. Ariel Caculitan, Navy spokesman, said LC 551 arrived in Manila Wednesday evening. The transport ship sailed off at dawn on Oct. 25 to bring tons of much needed relief goods, heavy equipment, construction materials and medical and engineering teams to the typhoon-hit towns of Maconacon, Divilacan, and Palanan in Isabela.

Caculitan said some 170 sailors and Marines who composed Task Group Amianan Recovery (TGAR) led by Capt. Nodolfo Tejada, provided medical assistance and distributed relief goods to the typhoon victims. The task group also took part in the construction of the Maconacon elementary and high school buildings, and in putting up temporary shelters for the victims.

LC 551 was immediately dispatched to Isabela on Oct. 25 to undertake relief and rehabilitation in the wake of the devastation left by super typhoon “Juan.”

From the Navy headquarters on Roxas Blvd., Manila, four naval combat engineering teams, a 60-man rescue team, a communications team, and a medical team boarded the vessel. Also on board were two payloaders, trailers, and a crane used for undertaking engineering and rehabilitation of various facilities, along with a 25-ton relief goods.

However, due to the unfavorable sea condition, LC 551 was forced to take shelter in San Fernando City, La Union where it stayed for two days. While it was moored there, the Task Group received instruction from the Northern Luzon Command to proceed to Port Irene, San Vicente, Cagayan and loaded relief goods and construction materials from the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) intended for the coastal towns of Isabela.

LC 551 arrived at Port Irene in the morning of Oct. 30 where it loaded 211 tons of cargo — hygiene kits, water kits, tents, medicines, including school items for students and teachers. Also loaded were 1,200 packs of relief goods from the Vice President as well as 2,000 GI sheets and other construction materials from the provincial government of Isabela.

Four representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), three from Smart Communications, and two from Ateneo de Manila boarded the vessel together with 52 residents of Maconacon and Divilacan.

Caculitan said the way to Isabela proved to be a difficult one as huge waves of up to seven to nine meters’ high slowed down the vessel.

"The long hours and days of nauseatic ‘roller coaster ride’ were certainly a draining experience, but this did not deter the sailors and Marines to continue on with their mission," said Caculitan.

He said although rough seas prevented the ship to dock in Maconacon for days, LC 551 while anchored in the vicinity off Bicobian Bay, Divilacan, Isabela utilized its two Landing Craft Vessel Personnel (LCVP) to transport the relief goods to dry land.

By noon of Nov. 6, all relief goods intended for the town of Palanan had been unloaded in Divilacan. The ship proceeded to Maconacon the next day to unload other relief goods which consisted of 525 bottles of mineral water, 500 packs of food items, and 500 packs of clothing items.

"The crucial importance of the Navy has been once again emphasized during these times of calamities," said Caculitan, adding: "Naval vessels are strategic assets that can transport huge complement of rescue and humanitarian response to victims of disasters. It can serve as a platform for both local and national government, NGOs, and other agencies in providing different immediate services."

The Navy spokesman said it was the same situation in 2006 when Albay was ravaged by typhoon “Reming” and road networks were rendered impassable, with only the sea left as the unhampered maneuver space for rescue and relief activities.

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