26 April 2012

Balikatan exercises held in Subic

The Hawaii National Guard, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) fire department, conducted a search and rescue exercise here on April 20 as part of the 28th Balikatan exercises between the military forces of the United States and the Philippines.

The exercise was held at the Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue Training Facility in this free port. The facility is designed to simulate different scenarios during an earthquake.

Participants in the exercise demonstrated different rescue techniques such as high angle rope rescue, collapsed structure rescue, shoring, breaching and breaking.

Capt. Aaron Blanchard, officer in charge of the Hawaii National Guard, stressed the importance of disaster preparation.

“Obviously when disaster happens there’s no time to train then, and the only time to train is when you get opportunities like this,” said Blanchard.

Blanchard also said that the Subic exercise gave them an opportunity to work with different agencies.

“It’s a learning experience for everyone. We learned techniques and procedures and we shared our experiences, too,” he said.

During the simulation, the participants also used the incident command system (ICS), an emergency system designed for planned and unplanned events.

According to Capt. Ranny Magno, SBMA fire department chief, the ICS is a very flexible emergency response system that is being used in other countries.

“One of the features of ICS is that it is flexible and modular. In other words, its use depends on the situation. You can adjust it,” Magno said.

Magno also took note of the preparedness of the SBMA in responding to emergency situations.

“If there is a disaster, the SBMA is ready to respond, to give assistance,” he said. “In many cases, when neighboring municipalities, towns and cities request for our help, we respond immediately. We have the equipment, we have the manpower, plus the kind of discipline of responding immediately because time is the very essence in any emergency, especially in natural calamity.”

The Philippine National Red Cross along with the Olongapo City Disaster Risk Management Council also participated in the activity.

The Balikatan is a combined joint military exercise conducted under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries. This year, the joint military exercises focus on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Training. (FMD/MPD-SBMA)