Thursday, April 18, 2013

‘Balikatan’ holds media day, disaster training

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 17): ‘Balikatan’ holds media day, disaster training

Media members from the local, national, and associate press toured the significant events of “Balikatan 2013” at Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija while civilian rescue teams underwent rigid training in disaster response at the Subic Freeport in Zambales.

Members of media visited four areas where the RP-US Balikatan Joint Exercises are being held; first of which was at Special Operation Command (SOCOM), where US Army personnel are being trained of Arnis – a distinctive Filipino Martial Arts.

They were toured by Maj. Isaac Taylor, of the United States Air force; Maj. Teresita B. Gangan; and Capt. Mark Anthony B Ruelos, Acting Chief, Public Affairs office of the 7th Infantry Division.

The US Army personnel demonstrated their learned Arnis skills and techniques under the tutelage of Arnis Master Rosario V. Melchor.

In lieu of Balikatan’s joint exercises on combat interoperability, PH and US troops trained in mortar exercises at Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The media people were cautioned to stay only at the safe part of the exercise area as 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) Army personnel from the 80th Infantry Battalion (80IB) demonstrated mortar exercises.

In line with the Human Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) focus of this year’s Balikatan, the US Marines together with US Ret. Army, Jim Muldeon, US Pacific Science Advisor, 4th Charter Hawaii, has loaned the Philippines Water Purification Machines called ASPEN 2000DM, and four of them are being used in the Water Purification Area of the Pahingahan Dam in Fort Magsaysay.

7ID Army personnel noted that the water purifying machines have helped Fort Magsaysay donate fresh and clean drinking water to calamity-affected areas in Mindanao during typhoons Quiel, Pedring, and Sendong, among others.

Sgt. Melecio Portuguese, the first Filipino Army personnel trained to operate the said machine, demonstrated how the water purifier is operated to the media. Sgt. Portuguese explained that the machine uses Ultra Violet (UV) light which turns the lake water into 100% germ-free water.

The Sgt. further said that the machine can process 100 gallons of freshwater per hour and 50 gallons of saltwater per hour. He also indicated US Army’s generosity of loaning the machines to the Philippine Army, costing the machines only 10% of its original price.

US Ret Army Muldeons explained the technical aspect of the process by demonstrating a test which shows that the water from the Aspen 2000DM contains zero solid parts per million, proving how safe and pure it is for human consumption. The US Pac Science Advisor, also iterated that the US Army will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Philippine Army in its HADR efforts.

For security and policy reasons, the media were not allowed to take interviews but photographs at the Obstacle Course of Special Forces (SF) School, Fernandez Hill, Molave Complex of Fort Magsaysay.

Meanwhile, a scenario was laid out to some five groups of rescue teams inside the Subic Freeport aimed at enhancing their response in times of natural disasters.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s (SBMA) Earthquake Response Simulation Exercise was laid out before the SBMA’s own Emergency Response Team (ERT), Olongapo Rescue, Sta. Rita Rescue, National Red Cross and the Philippine Army to prepare these groups in case a disaster of seismic proportions came.

The exercise was part of the Balikatan 2013 as the Hawaii National Guard and the CBRNE Emergency Response Package Team (CERP-T) trained these rescue groups in Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) training and Swift Water Rescue (SWR) training.

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