U.S. Marines Reduce Philippine Relief Operations
By Marine Corps Cpl. Brandon Suhr
III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific
TACLOBAN, Philippines, Nov. 25, 2013 U.S. Marines supporting Joint Task Force 505 in Tacloban City have begun to redeploy due to the decreasing demand for unique U.S. military capabilities in recovery efforts.
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, right, with armed forces of the Philippines Army Col. Emmanuel Cacdac at Tacloban Airport, the Philippines, Nov. 24, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Caleb Eames
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The government of the Philippines, with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and various international military and nongovernmental supporters, continues leading the effort to help survivors and continue the recovery from Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda in the Tacloban area.
However, the emergency relief efforts are now transitioning to long-term recovery operations.
“We are now transitioning towards expanding beyond the airport,” said Philippine Navy Capt. Roy V. Trinidad, the task-group airport commander with Joint Headquarters Staff Operations. “The airport is in good hands. Civil aviation authorities are now handling the airport, of course with support from the Philippine air force and the U.S. military.”
The entire area was destroyed when the typhoon hit Nov. 7 and all local government was affected by the storm. But within a matter of days personnel from the armed forces of the Philippines had arrived and government officials were flown in from unaffected areas. Multiple countries, including the U.S., offered assistance.
“All the relief that came in, food, water, medicine, fuel, would not have been possible, we could not have pushed them out from the airport without the critical air assets that came in,” Trinidad said. “The decisive point of the whole mission was the arrival of the aircraft to help us push all the supplies out.”
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with estimated wind gusts reaching 230 mph. The storm left a path of destruction spanning 36 provinces and impacted an estimated 4.2 million people, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“We were led by our Philippine partners from the 8th division and we got critical augmentation from the armed forces of the Philippines -- they have been leading this thing since day one -- but all the augmentation that has now been provided is now being shouldered by the Philippine armed forces,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade that’s currently in support of Joint Task Force 505.
“It makes me feel good as an ally of this government that we could respond,” Kennedy added. “We were under the direction of the Philippine armed forces the entire time. [The response] was tailored and it was immediate and responsive. We feel pretty good about having participated in this operation.”
The 8th division has designed a plan to continue improving the ground transportation corridors by having the Philippine armed forces travel along the roads to make sure they are open, Kennedy said.
“We have pulled more than 135 different types of trucks that are being used to push forward on a regular schedule in coordination with our Department of Social Welfare and Development. We are pushing the relief to a lot of [impacted] communities and now a lot of the hospital facilities are increasingly functional in coordination with the Department of Health,” said Philippine Army Col. Emmanuel Cacdac, the Yolanda deputy task force commander. “We plan to build up needed relief supplies here that our military trucks and assets will be pushing out to the stricken municipalities. We have done this on a regular basis for the last couple weeks.”
The U.S. assets were critical in the operation of several distribution hubs, including Tacloban City, Guiuan and Ormoc City, Cacdac said.
The substantial improvement in supply chains across the most severely affected areas have set conditions for a coordinated, responsible, and measured retrograde of U.S. military forces from the Philippines, Kennedy said.
U.S. military forces in the Philippines evacuated more than 17,000 people from typhoon-impacted areas and delivered more than 2,000 tons of relief supplies.
“It is very heartwarming that one of our closest allies, the U.S. military, was the first to join us and help us. Truly, their presence put a lot of stability in the initial stages of the operation,” Cacdac said.