PH contingent members awarded for Türkiye relief mission

By Priam Nepomuceno

March 6, 2023, 12:38 pm

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of AFP)</em></p>

(Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday recognized the 82 members of the Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) for their relief mission in Türkiye which was severely battered by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake a month ago.

“As a Filipino, it makes me proud that our country, the Philippines, readily responded to that call, in solidarity with the international community. We were able to quickly form our humanitarian contingent as we are never short of men and women who have no qualms about facing danger and overcoming odds just to extend a helping hand and bring comfort to those in need,” said Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chairperson Carlito Galvez Jr. during the awarding ceremony.

The team leader of each participating agency and uniformed service of PIAHC received the "Bakas Parangal" award on behalf of its members.

Handing the award were Galvez, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary María Rosario Vergeire, NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acting chairman Romando Artes.

Institutionalized in 2012 under NDRRMC Memorandum Circular No. 11, the "Bakas Parangal" award is given as a recognition of merit or token of gratitude to individuals or groups who exerted exemplary and extraordinary acts of selflessness in reaching out to those who are in urgent need of assistance in times of disasters.

Meanwhile, the PIAHC also received PHP4.1 million in monetary incentives from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

The PIAHC was sent to Türkiye to help victims of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit that country on Feb. 6.

The team arrived in Istanbul on Feb. 9 and returned home on Feb. 28 after two weeks of deployment.

PIAHC members came from the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion of the Philippine Army, MMDA, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Department of Health, and from the Office of Civil Defense.

The Philippine contingent’s medical team served 1,022 patients while its search and rescue team assisted in search and rescue operations in the collapsed buildings, assessing a total of 36 buildings from Feb. 10 to 15 before it was placed on standby for requests for further assistance on retrieval operations.

The Philippine government also provided 11,205 blankets, 5,000 bonnets, and 420 pairs of gloves to the victims.

The base of operations or base camp was also managed by the leadership of the DOH, with the assistance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Turkish military.

“As chairperson of the NDRRMC, I convey my sincerest appreciation and personal commendation to all of you for ably representing our country and extending to our brothers and sisters in Türkiye the warmth of our people’s love through the services you have rendered," Galvez added.

Aside from the "Bakas ng Parangal ng Kabayanihan" Award, each unit that composed the contingent--the Philippine Air Force 505th Search and Rescue Group; Philippine Army 525th Engineer Combat Battalion; Metro Manila Development Authority; Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; Department of Health; and Office of Civil Defense-- was awarded the SND (Secretary of National Defense) Plaque of Merit and Bakas Parangal ng Kabayanihan from the OCD.

Aside from the unit awards, each AFP rescuer was given a Meritorious Service Award and Chief of Staff AFP Commendation Medal and Ribbon for their meritorious and valuable contribution to the search and retrieval operations.

In his remarks, AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino expressed his deepest gratitude and highest respect to the members of the humanitarian contingent for the excellent service they rendered above the call of duty in response to the request of Turkiye for assistance. 

"May your courage, professionalism, and compassion set the standards by which all public servants and Filipinos can truly be of help to our fellowmen. Furthermore, may this humanitarian mission and its success inspire us always to be ready to help our fellow men, wherever and whenever, without hesitation, without limit. Likewise, I am thankful to the Almighty for guiding our heroes and bringing them home, safe and sound," he added.

Meanwhile, Vergeire relayed the government's responses to the destructive earthquakes that have struck the country since 2020.

Hindi n’yo lamang naipamalas ang tunay na kabayanihan sa ating mga kapatid sa Turkiye, ipinakita n’yo rin ang taglay nating kakayanan bilang mga Pilipino sa (You did not just exemplify real heroism to our brothers and sisters in Turkiye, you also showed your capabilities as Filipinos in) urban search and rescue, and on essential medicine, medical, and public health services,” she added.

Galvez also called for further improvements in the government's preparedness to respond to contingencies as he congratulated the PIAHC. 

"What happened to Turkiye and Syria was really terrible. Thus, we cannot be complacent in any way. Instead, let us continuously boost our disaster prevention, mitigation, response, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts. We are never short of men and women who have no reservation about facing dangers and overcoming odds to extend a helping hand to those in need," he added. (PNA)