US plans quick-response team during Philippine disasters

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  • The United States Armed Forces is looking to send “within 24 hours” different teams to help intervene when a powerful typhoon similar to Yolanda hits the Philippines.

    In an interview during the Balikatan 2017 Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief/CounterTerrorism staff exercise (HADR/CT Staffex) held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command General and Staff College (CGSC) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday, Major Andrew Merz, US Exercise Director, CPX Staffex Combined Exercise Contol Group BK 33-17, said: “We will provide support that are not available, things like lift support also other forms of logistics support needed for the exercise.”

    Merz told reporters that in an actual disaster, the US will send several different types of teams down almost immediately within 24 hours.”

    The US military will also fly in a joint humanitarian assistance team that will coordinate with the Philippine armed forces, he said.

    “Oftentimes there are already US military forces in the region like in Japan that can respond quickly within 24 to 72 hours,” Merz said.

    He also made it clear that the US does not perform direct counter terrorism operations in the Philippines.

    “That is not the US role but for this command post exercise the US is here to conduct support to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief that are being conducted by the AFP. The counterterrorism aspect is being played by the AFP battle staff, discussions about the tactics, techniques and procedures regarding counter terrorism,” he said.

    Merz said the exercise is focused on general tactics, techniques and procedures to develop skills and capabilities that can be applied in every situation.

    Lt. Col. Michael Logico, Philippine Exercise Director, CPX-Staffex Combined Exercise Control Group (BK-17), said what they are simulating and training the staff is the crisis action plan on HADR operations.

    Logico said the scenario that has been created is a category 5 typhoon that hits Eastern Visayas in May 4.

    “So we went through the story line of the Philippines conducting initial response connecting it to a multinational operation,” Logico said.

    “During the HADR operation we included counterterrorism scenarios that will also be a test for the AFP crisis action planning team so the scenario that we developed is hijacking incident that will disrupt the HADR operation and how the planners can resolve quickly the counter terrorist so that we can move on with the HADR operations,” he said.

    Logico said the civilians take a primary role in HADR operations. (F. Wakefield, mb)

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