American and Filipino soldiers build classrooms for Ormoc City villages through the ongoing Philippine-US Balikatan Exercise 2017. (PNA)
AN UPLAND village in Ormoc City has received new classrooms through the ongoing Philippine-US Balikatan Exercise 2017.
Villager Betty Ann Catapon said the two new classrooms inside the Don Carlos Rivilla Elementary School in Boroc village would be a great help for the community, which was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
The elementary school has more than 400 enrollees from kindergarten to Grade 6 in the last academic year. To date, a group of 60 children share a single room.
Catapon said that with the project, constructed by American and Filipino troopers, the "crowded" classrooms will be decongested.
Boroc is more than three kilometers away from the national road and more than five kilometers away from the city’s downtown.
Balikatan 2017 soldiers will also build classrooms in nearby Margen Elementary School. At least four classrooms were destroyed by Yolanda on November 8, 2013, prompting students to use makeshift classrooms for their classes.
Margen Elementary School Principal Elvira de Leon said that the construction of classrooms was timely for the opening of the school year. “This is timely because this coming school year, four new teachers will be assigned in this school,” according to De Leon.
Margen campus has 627 registered students. From the usual war games since 2000, Balikatan Exercise 2017 has shifted to humanitarian assistance to cope with challenges that the country are facing and to prepare the US Forces and the Philippine Army to response during natural calamities and disaster, to carry out delivery of humanitarian aid and enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities.
“Balikatan gives us opportunities to share ideas, to learn from each other, to desire many more years of close relationship and partnership,” said Commander Robert Christian, head of US Armed Forces community relations team.
“We have a long history of working together for our common good, it will be our military and your military and people that we will be working together in times of disaster which is why we are doing this today,” Christian told reporters on Monday.
US Armed Forces joining the Balikatan Exercise 2017 are personnel from the US Air Force, Navy, Marines, Infantry and Seabees or the US Naval Construction Forces. Most of them are stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
Their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines are personnel from the 546th and the 543rd Engineering Construction Battalion and the Army Reserve Command.
The US troops are also conducting humanitarian civic assistance in selected villages covered by military humanitarian exercise.
Lt. Col. George Domingo of the Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division said the holding of Balikatan Exercise in Eastern Visayas was not only a good experience for soldiers assigned in the region, but also for people always facing threats of natural disaster.
Balikatan Exercise 2017 in Eastern Visayas started early April and will end on May 18 after the turnover of the constructed classroom to recipient schools.