(Photo courtesy of Bea Bernardo, PTV)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it would deploy 33 military personnel to help in ongoing search and rescue efforts in Türkiye which was rocked by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Monday.

The personnel are trained in search and rescue operations and have the equipment for the special task, according to AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Andres Centino.

"We are sending two groups, from the Army and the Air Force. A total of 33 personnel -- 21 from the Army, 12 from the Air Force," Centino told reporters on the sidelines of the inspection of responding troops and equipment at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

While this is the first time for some of the troops to be deployed abroad, Centino said they have responded to various calamities and typhoons in the Philippines, including the aftermath of Typhoon Odette in December 2021.

Centino said he advised the troops to prepare for Türkiye’s cold weather, which will fall to as low as 3 degrees Celsius in the next two weeks, according to forecasts.

The AFP will provide the proper clothing and equipment while security arrangements are being prepared.

PH rescue teams mobilized

Meanwhile, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chairperson and Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge (OIC) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. inspected and sends-off the inter-agency response teams to be deployed to Türkiye.

Galvez was accompanied by Centino, Department of Health OIC Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) OIC Assistant Secretary Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro IV,  Centino, Metro Manila Development Authority acting chairman Romando Artes, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Fire Department manager Ranny Magno.

The response came after the call for assistance from the international community of Türkiye through its embassy in Manila requesting for emergency medical teams (EMTs) and urban search and rescue (USAR) teams.

"Our response is in solidarity with the People of Türkiye who have helped our country, especially in attaining peace in Mindanao," Galvez said.

The Philippines is set to deploy an 85-man team that is composed of personnel two personnel from the OCD, 33 personnel from the medium USAR team of the AFP, 10 from the Metro Manila Development Authority, and nine from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and EMTs from the Department of Health numbering 31.

"We aim for this team to be self sufficient, who can rely on their own, and not a burden to the host country," Galvez added.

Aside from EMTs and USAR teams to be deployed, they will also bring with them goods to be donated to the affected people of the 

These goods include clothing and sleeping kits for winter, and hygiene and sanitary kits, which will be provided by the OCD, together with the private sector and local government units.

The team will be deployed to Türkiye for at least two weeks and is set to depart on Wednesday at the earliest via a commercial flight provided by Turkish Airlines.

"This is our contribution to humanity, and the President ordered us for the response teams to prepare for deployment, for the People of Türkiye," Galvez said.

In a separate statement, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said the military personnel that will be deployed for the Turkish relief operations are from the Army's 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, 51st Engineer Brigade and the Air Force 505th Search and Rescue Group.

"The 33 personnel from the AFP will join USAR units of the MMDA and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority," he added.

In addition, the OCD will send a communications and logistics team, while the Department of Health will dispatch emergency medical personnel to aid Türkiye's response team. (PNA)