MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) on Thursday said disaster response teams from its units near the areas affected by the magnitude 7 earthquake are now helping government and private responders in relief efforts and in clearing landslide-hit key roads.
In a statement, Army spokesperson, Col. Xerxes Trinidad, said the responding units are from the Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division and the Nueva Ecija-headquartered 7th Infantry Division.
"(The) 54th Infantry Battalion troops and one squad of CAFGU Active Auxiliary rescued stranded patients aboard an ambulance at Sitio Balawa, Barangay Liwon, Asipulo, Ifugao. The patients were promptly brought back to the Rural Health Unit of Barangay Antipolo, Asipulo, Ifugao," he said.
Meanwhile, the 71st Infantry Battalion troops provided assistance and conducted rescue operations for residents of Barangay Poblacion Norte, Lidlidda, Ilocos Sur.
"Army engineers from the 548th Engineer Battalion likewise cleared debris that blocked the Naguilian Road in La Union while the 72nd Division Reconnaissance Company helped evacuate village folk in coastal barangays of Santa Lucia, Ilocos Sur," Trinidad said.
He added that the 5th Infantry Division deployed disaster response units and assets to assist in the national government-led efforts for quake victims in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley.
"Army units in Ilocos Region, Cordillera, and Cagayan Valley augmented their standby search, rescue, and retrieval teams as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the possibility of aftershocks," Trinidad said.
As this developed, PA commander, Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., commended the Army’s servant-soldiers for their decisive disaster response and assistance to quake victims.
“Rest assured that the Philippine Army -- in close coordination with national government agencies, local government units, and private sector partners -- will work ‘round the clock to assist our fellow countrymen in quake-hit communities,” he added.
Also on Thursday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) held a send-off ceremony for its personnel who would conduct relief operations in earthquake-hit areas in northern Luzon.
PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., reminded troops to take extra precautions as aftershocks are expected from Wednesday's tremor.
He also cautioned them against communist rebels who might take advantage of the situation to stage attacks.
"Ang problema natin sa Abra, hindi lang (Our problem in Abra is not just) about natural disaster. It is also a known area of communist rebels kaya mag-ingat kayo dun (so you should take extra precaution). Ayokong mangyari ulit 'yung tao natin nagbibigay ng ayuda, babanatan na naman ng mga loko-loko dyan. (I don't want another scenario where these fools will attack our people who are distributing aid). Our people going to the area are unarmed. This is not a time for conflict. This is a time to help one another," he said on the sidelines of the send-off rites at its headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The National Capital Region Police (NCRPO), meanwhile, said it is also ready to deploy teams to augment search and rescue (SAR) operations in earthquake-hit areas.
"Our SAR-trained troops, as well as our equipment, were already well-accounted for ready for deployment. The same directives were cascaded from the districts, police stations, sub-stations down to police precincts," said NCRPO chief, Maj. Gen. Felipe Natividad, in a statement.
He, meanwhile, urged those residing near the affected areas and within the faultlines to be more vigilant against possible aftershocks. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)