Close U.S.-Philippine Ties Aid Typhoon Relief Efforts
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 Praising the Philippine government for its “tremendous efforts” after Typhoon Pablo, internationally known as Typhoon Bopha, dealt a devastating blow there last week, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region credited the close alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines for paving the way for U.S. forces to quickly provide assistance.
Philippine service members and U.S. Marines palletize relief supplies at Villamor Air Base in Manila during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, Dec. 13, 2012. After palletizing the gear, the Marines transported the supplies via KC-130J Hercules aircraft to Davao International Airport for further distribution to citizens in need throughout Mindanao, the region of the Philippines most affected by Typhoon Pablo, internationally known as Typhoon Bopha, which made landfall Dec. 4. The Marines are landing support specialists with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force and embarkation specialists with 3rd MLG and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Jean-Scott Dodd
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, also condemned North Korea’s missile launch this week as detrimental to the security environment, “not only in East Asia, but the rest of the world.”
During a joint news conference today in Manila with Gen. Jessie Dellosa, chief of staff of the Philippine Armed Forces, Locklear expressed condolences for the hundreds lost in the aftermath of the typhoon and commended efforts the Philippine military is undertaking to support recovery and relief operations.
Locklear also recognized U.S. forces that were already in the Philippines when the typhoon struck Dec. 4, and quickly shifted gears to lend support. Some were members of III Marine Expeditionary Force participating in a planning conference for the upcoming Balikatan 13 exercise, and others included special operators working with the Philippine military.
The Marines stood up the III MEF forward command element and are using it as a base to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support at the Philippine government’s request. They are coordinating those requests with the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
“We have personnel with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Pacific Air Forces, OFDA, Joint-U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in the bilateral coordination center in order to prioritize and synchronize humanitarian assistance and relief efforts, which ultimately makes that coordination more efficient,” said Marine Corps Col. Mark J. Menotti, the officer in charge of the III MEF FCE.
Two KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 also arrived in Manila from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, Dec. 8 to transport relief supplies to affected areas, according to Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jason W. Julian, the commanding officer of VMGR-152, part of Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.
“The established partnership we have ensured swift coordination with U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, and allowed for the transportation of live-saving supplies from Manila to communities isolated by severe infrastructure damage,” Locklear said today. “This type of coordination and response to such a calamity would not be possible if not for the robust relationships already in place between our two countries.”
Locklear said he anticipates more bilateral and multinational training focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response that ensures regional nations are prepared to respond together when necessary.
“The things that you practice together to do that improve your operability, your information sharing, your intelligence, your common and shared values and goals,” he said. “All of those add value, not just in [humanitarian assistance and disaster response], but in any contingency … down the road.”
Participating today in meetings of the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Board/Security Engagement Board, Locklear said he and Philippine leaders focused on their 61-year alliance and ways to strengthen it to serve the national interests of both countries in the future.
The board represents “a unique opportunity for the government and military leaders from our two countries to come together and discuss how we work with one another to further advance our ability to respond to such disasters, as well as address shared security challenges, improve bilateral and multilateral relationships and to build upon our mutual defense objectives,” Locklear said. “Strengthening the U.S.-Philippine alliance ensures [that] together, we continue to effectively and efficiently contribute to stability and the security in the Asia-Pacific.”
Asked by a reporter about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Locklear called North Korea’s missile launch this week, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions “a provocative event” that “is not good for the security environment.”
“It was against the wishes of the international community,” he said, questioning North Korea’s priorities in spending about $1 billion to launch a missile rather than tending to its own citizens’ needs.
“We will have to see what transpires from here,” the admiral said.
Locklear recognized other challenges in the Asia-Pacific, from climate change and the impact of rising sea levels to the increase in natural disasters in the region to cyberthreats and the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.
The Philippines, one of five U.S. allies in the region, remains a close partner in addressing these and other challenges, he said.