Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. forces with Joint Task Force Balikatan 2006 ended a week-long search and rescue operation at the direction of the governor of Leyte Island in the wake of a massive mudslide that destroyed the village of Guinsaugon Feb. 17.
Having declared an end to the search and rescue operations, the Government of the Philippines is now working closely with non-governmental organizations and private volunteer organizations to conduct long term recovery/reconstruction in the stricken area.
U.S. military forces in St. Bernard, Leyte, continue to coordinate relief efforts with local and regional leaders, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Red Cross, and other non-governmental and private volunteer organizations in the area.
The evacuation centers located in St. Bernard are operational and being managed by local volunteer organizations. The local police and AFP are providing security for the evacuation centers. Distribution of goods to those most affected by the disaster is being coordinated by local and regional leaders and volunteers.Search and rescue crews from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit began retrograding to the USS Essex and USS Harpers ferry today.
More than 2,500 U.S. forces positioned in the Philippines in support of Exercise Balikatan 2006 were diverted to assist in the search and rescue at the request of the Philippine government. The U.S. military role was to provide immediate, life-sustaining support, to mitigate loss of life and human suffering in the areas affected by the landslide.
The Philippine and U.S. governments have worked closely together to coordinate this humanitarian assistance/disaster relief response. The effective partnership enabled a rapid response to the disaster.
To date, JTF Balikatan 2006 has provided the following necessities: More than 3,100 five-gallon water cans, 900 1.5-gallon water cans, three pallets of bottled water, 2,500 blankets, two pallets of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, 1,500 sleeping mats, 150 pick axes, one pallet plus 500 additional shovels, three pallets of rice, one pallet of medications, 12, 55-gallon diesel fuel drums, 40 chainsaws and 5 generators.
Joint Task Force Balikatan 2006 has also provided other supplies and support, including light sets, kettles, and air and ground transportation. Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military aircraft have flown more than 400 hours bringing in supplies and people to support the efforts in Leyte.
The fixed-wing aircraft include KC-130 Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster III. Helicopter support includes the CH-46E, CH-53E Super Stallion, UH-1N Huey, and the H-60 Black Hawk.Exercise Balikatan 2006, an annual combined bilateral exercise involving Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military, began Feb. 20 and consists of a staff exercise, cross-training and field training, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects.
The 22nd exercise of its kind will end Mar. 5.Combined interoperability exercises such as Balikatan 2006 provide the U.S. and Philippine armed forces the ability to respond rapidly to disaster situations such as the unfortunate disaster that occurred in Leyte.