Philippine Armed Forces Spread Good Will
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
LAMITAN, Philippines, March 1, 2010 A medical outreach event here Feb. 25 showed the resolve not only of the Philippine armed forces, but also of the international community, to spread good will to the southern Philippines.
A Philippine national policeman helps a boy into a wheelchair Feb. 25, 2010, during a medical outreach event in Lamitan, Philippines. Philippine armed forces, the local government and other volunteers provided free health care to hundreds of local residents. Several disabled people received wheelchairs. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 coordinated the efforts with the local government, Philippine military doctors, U.S. forces and even a nonprofit charity from the United States.
Volunteers provided supplies and services and were able to offer dental care, some minor surgeries, medicines and consultations. U.S. forces also donated several wheelchairs to those in need.
“[Philippine forces] recognize the need people have for these services and are very proactive in planning these types of events,” said Army Capt. Bill Adams, a civil affairs officer with Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines here. “They do a tremendous job, and their efforts have been very good.”
Hundreds turned out to take advantage of a variety of free medical care organized by the armed forces of the Philippines. Women, children and the elderly gathered patiently outside of the bamboo-and-straw medical stations. They waited happily for care, because this was the first chance in some time for many of them to see a doctor.
As is the case in much of the region, events such as these give residents opportunities they may not otherwise have to seek treatment, several Philippine troops at the event said.
Adams, who’s been deployed here since November, said these types of outreach events are a great way for the troops to show they care as well as relate to the people.
“These troops put themselves out there, even in places where they don’t feel safe,” he said, “and the people see that.”
Philippine navy Rear Adm. Alexander Pama agreed with Adams, and expressed how meaningful it is for Philippine troops to serve their countrymen. His troops also are pleased with their American partners and their efforts, he added.
“Volunteers, doctors, nurses, supplies -- all of this comes from donations from kind-hearted people in both the Philippines and the United States,” said Pama, commander of naval forces in western Mindanao. “It definitely means a lot not only to the people who we serve, but for us who serve the people.”
Pama praised the American military and civilian efforts in this event, noting support from the Lingkod Timog nonprofit group based out of Rhode Island. The group is made up of Filipino-Americans working to reverse poverty and improve health services in the Philippines. They work regularly with both militaries to reach out to areas in need.
“It’s quite fortunate that we have the partners that we do,” he said. “Groups coming all the way from the United States, [U.S. troops]; it’s basically a synergy of everybody to reach out to these people, help them out so they don’t feel so marginalized in society. It’s not just the guys in uniform who are here. It’s an extension of American society and their support for the people here.”
A little good will goes a long way to improving security and bridging the gap between government and the local communities, Pama said. He explained that terrorists take advantage of impoverished areas by providing the poor with money and food in return for their support and, often, their service.
“Building strong bonds and relationships in the communities is a very important aspect to our security efforts,” he said. “We all know bad guys thrive on the poor, and in the classic sense of counterinsurgency, the bad guys drain the pan.
“We want to come across to the people that we are the good guys,” he continued, “and we need to pull the support away from the bad guys and let the people know that the government is after the people’s welfare.”
Ultimately, safety and security for the people is the most important aspect of the Philippine military mission. Events such as this, Pama said, give the people more than just money and temporary support. People get services they need without having to risk their lives or becoming indebted to criminals and terrorists.
“The happiness of the people is not very complicated,” he said. “They need their basic services, and they need security. Events like this are going to be ingrained in their minds forever, that the good guys -- the military, the volunteers and the American military -- came here to help.”