By Martin Sadongdong
Soldiers based in Eastern Mindanao became victims, too, of the series of powerful earthquakes that struck parts of the region last month but it did not stop them from helping those who are in need.
Troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion (39IB) were redeployed to assist the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (LDRRMC) of North Cotabato in raising back tent cities in four evacuation centers in Makilala town after it was struck by strong wind, heavy rain, and hailstorm on Monday.
Lieutenant General Felimon Santos, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), commended the troops for their service to their fellow calamity victims.
“You showed the finest virtue of service. Despite being a victim also of the calamity, we responded timely and selflessly and tirelessly committed ourselves and our unit to the neediest and somehow helped them in alleviating their suffering,” Santos said.
The troops from the 39th IB were initially pulled out from their relief operations to assist the soaked evacuees while awaiting the redeployment of the soldiers from the 534th and 512th Engineering Battalion.
The latter battalions were deployed to supposedly put up and configure evacuation centers in the affected areas.
However, heavy rains and wind battered the evacuation centers in Makilala town, which is one of the most devastated areas following the deadly earthquakes that hit Mindanao on October 16, 29 and 31.
“We shall continue to assist the different DRRMCs and the other law enforcement agencies in [putting] order to the disaster response and [encouraging] our stakeholders to abide by the established protocol so that we [can] give a synchronized, orderly, equitable, and inclusive disaster management [system],” Santos stated.
The EastMinCom is currently overseeing the conduct of disaster response in the area through the 10th Infantry Division (10ID) Task Force HADR which utilizes the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, 901st Infantry Brigade, 512th Engineering Battalion, 534th Engineering Battalion and 10th Division Emergency Response Company.
In Davao City, the 11th Forward Service Support Unit has been expanded into a Joint Logistics Center to support and forward the logistical needs of the units and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council in the affected areas.
Further, aircraft from the Tactical Operations Wing-Eastern Mindanao which were used in rescue operations and Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis are on continuous alert for their utilization.
Two military mobile kitchen trucks were also deployed in Kidapawan to be utilized by some evacuation centers in the area.