MANILA-- Aside from securing the country's internal and external threats, it is also the duty of the military to help the government stabilize the situation in any disaster-stricken area in the event of a massive calamity.
This was one of the reasons why Filipino and American forces, during the 33rd iteration of the annual "Balikatan" exercises, opted to focus more training on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions along with counter-terrorism drills and maneuvers.
"The threat to our country does only come from war, it (could) come from massive HADR problem(s) similar to 'Yolanda' (which severely affected the Eastern Visayas and nearby regions in Nov. 8, 2013). There are other countries that (have) collapsed (after being hit by calamities) as they were not able to handle it properly. So the role of the Armed Forces here is to stabilize the situation and then get the (national) government back to work (relief and reconstruction) and (afterwards) give it back to the local government," said Philippine "Balikatan" exercise director Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao.
"Balikatan" 2017 is noted for having mostly high-impact HADR drills which include urban search-and-rescue (including collapsed structure rescue in event of earthquakes) and landing of relief units and goods in a typhoon-isolated area.
HADR is one of the missions President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines to more proficient in along with counter-terrorism.
Lactao said that HADR training is not that different from conventional military exercises as both have similar logistical needs.
His views were shared by US "Balikatan" director Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson who said movement in a country like the Philippines, which is surrounded by water, are skills pertinent to any type of military operation.
"The movement of relief supplies, these are skills that are pertinent to any type of military operation, the ability to move in a littoral environment, to be able to move in a maritime environment, supplies, personnel, whole-of-government approach to aid, I think that fits well whether it's a conventional force operation or humanitarian disaster relief, these are skills that are servicemen and those that in support will find very beneficial and practical for every military operation," he added.
Around 2,600 US troops, 2,800 Filipinos and 80 members of the Australian Defense Force are participating the annual "Balikatan" exercises which started May 8 and will end on the 19th.
Source: Philippines News Agency