Defense college’s Matatag class reunites to aid ‘Odette’ victims

Bound by a strong commitment to serve and help, the alumni of the Executive Master in National Security Administration (E-MNSA) program have gone to great lengths to showcase the spirit of bayanihan (cooperation), collaboration, and stability.

The E-MNSA’s executive “Matatag” (Sturdy) Class-01 alumni reunited in December after their graduation on Aug. 5, 2021 to bring assistance to the families affected by Typhoon Odette.

Consisting of high-ranking officials of the national government, private sector, local government units, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the class pooled their resources, donations, and mobilization efforts for relief operations in Bohol, Dinagat, Surigao del Norte, Siargao, Palawan, and Southern Leyte.

In an exclusive online interview with the class members on Thursday, they said they started the initiative by raising funds for some of their fellow alumni affected by the calamity.

The E-MNSA is a program under the National Defense College of the Philippines, the government’s highest center for education, training, and research on defense and national security established in 1963.

Alumnus Christopher Camba, vice president of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, shared that his company mobilized its assistance for the typhoon victims because of the MSNA network.

“It’s through our network and through (our) respective organizations that we represent, we managed to bring the help to these areas,” Camba said.

Right after the onslaught of “Odette” on December 16 and 17 last year, the Aboitiz Group, Army Reserve Command, Army Reserve Caraga 15th Regional Community Defense Group, and Hinatuan Surigao Sur Reservists provided food packs and drinking water to Dinagat Islands and San Jose in Surigao City, Claver, Siargao, and Surigao, all in Surigao del Norte.

Members of the 402nd Army Brigade, 4th Field Artillery Battalion, and 2nd Scout Rangers Brigade also helped during Aboitiz’s two-day relief operations while thousands of food packs were flown to Cebu from Manila, with the help of the Philippine Air Force Civil-Military Operations Group.

Assistant Secretary Lt. Col. Joan Lagunda of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources acknowledged the Aboitiz Group, through Camba, as an active partner of the government in various endeavors.

Lagunda, also the commander of the Brigade Civil Military Operation of the 1502nd Ready Reserve Combined of the 1302nd (Quezon City) Community Defense Center, noted the partnership was strengthened because of the E-MNSA program that they both attended with 40 others.

She said the Matatag class has been true to its commitment that “no one should be left behind” as they continue to pursue a series of disaster relief and humanitarian operations in “Odette”-affected areas amid the pandemic.

Giles Anthony Villamor, planning and development coordinator of the Medellin local government in Cebu, said the MNSA network provides a huge contribution to effectively extend assistance to the needy.

“It’s like an intangible asset in class, the strong connection, the strong will, the heart, and the passion to serve,” Villamor added.

Drinking water donated by Maynilad through the Matatag class, care of the 1502nd Brigade (Contributed photo)

Limitations vs. willingness to help

Joyce Barafon of the conservation group Rare International said the Matatag class confronted various challenges but still managed to prioritize assistance in heavily flooded areas.

“Major limitations were zero communication lines the day after the typhoon and in the following days, the access to water, gasoline, banks, and rice supply,” she said. “We were able to really make the leverage in terms of connections by tapping (our) classmates.”

Camba, meanwhile, cited the unwavering support of uniformed personnel in disaster operations, including the use of their land, air, and sea transportation.

In partnership with other private sector and NGOs, the class is currently facilitating the distribution of food packs, filtered water, community water filters, sacks of rice, generators, “trapal”-shelter (tent cloth cover) materials, toys, used clothing, blankets, and linens donated by a hotel chain.

Whole-of-nation approach

Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Omar Romero hopes that the ongoing efforts of the Matatag class for “Odette” victims would inspire others.

“Well, in a general sense, if we are able to get this out, there that we mobilize, and we did so much with so little time. Our class and our network did our part, so if we can encourage others by getting the story of how we did it out there. I hope that we’ll move those who are still on the fence or who are still able to help out,” Romero said.

Camba, meanwhile, said the private sector would continue to provide whatever help they could extend to those who are in need.

“The value of our class, the network we have, and the organizations where we’re connected with, are also complementing the efforts of the government,” he said.

Camba said the Matatag class complements the government’s quick disaster response.

“In times the government will not be able to respond right away, because you have observed the procurement (process) – which is valid, legit – that’s where we come in and that’s what we’ve proven to ‘Odette’, so we can step, come in for quick response while the government is mobilizing,” he added.

Camba noted that it is not easy to “accurately predict” the needs until the assessment is done, thus, their class augmentation efforts are designed for the whole-of-nation approach.

“That’s (where) our class came in. We extended help right away, quick response and then the government is of course nandoon na rin (was already there) so we complemented kung saan pa ‘yung gaps, doon kami papasok (we will enter and augment the gaps) and I think that’s the value of the whole-of-nation approach,” he said.

Used clothes, toys, blankets, foods packs (Contributed photo)

Commitment

Villamor said more volunteers are willing and ready to help while Lagunda encouraged the victims to always keep their faith.

Moreover, Barafon cited the need for people to think in advance, plan, and prepare for future calamities and disasters.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 145 in August last year, granting a Career Executive Service Officer rank to graduates of NDCP’s E-MNSA program, provided they are already occupying Career Executive Service positions.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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