Official Publication of the Philippine Information Agency Bicol Regional Office, in cooperation with the RIAC-REDIRAS - RDC Bicol

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Feature: Why Albay is picked to host the 2016 Pacific Partnership

By Julius Embile

LEGAZPI CITY, June 28 (PIA) – “It may not be exactly something to be proud of, but we here in Albay pretty much experience every natural disaster in the book; like volcanic eruptions, heavy storms,  and earthquakes” said Raffy Alejandro, regional director of the Bicol region’s Office of Civil Defense (OCD-5), during a press briefing held today.

“But, through it all, we learn a lot of lessons prompting us to be stronger and much better prepared. That is what we want to share with our friends”, he added. The statement was the director’s answer as to why the province of Albay is chosen as the host of the 2016 Pacific Partnership.

The Pacific Partnership is an annual series of humanitarian missions, spear-headed by the US, but is composed of multi-national contingents. This year’s Pacific Partnership, the eleventh since 2005, is comprised by the allied nations of the Philippines, United States, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Timor Leste.

Though most of those involved in the Pacific Partnership are under the armed services of their respective counties, the missions are not military but humanitarian in nature. The US Navy’s hospital ship USNS Mercy serves as the mission’s center-force throughout the duration of the missions.

USNS Mercy is currently en-route to the Philippines, as the second-stop of the mission, from Timor Leste. The Philippine leg of the mission begins on June 27, upon the arrival of the ship in Legazpi City, and will end on July 11 when the ship departs for Vietnam.

The objective of the missions this 2016 is the development of capacity and response against natural disasters through international cooperation. Once again, being known throughout the country as the fore-runner in disaster management and response, the province of Albay is again chosen to host the activities.

As Alejandro stressed, it is no secret that Albay earned its ‘disaster readiness’ recognition the hard way. On a regular basis, the province has continued to endure and contend against intense natural disasters like the eruption of the Mayon volcano and tropical storms from the Pacific Ocean.

Throughout the years, Albay suffered the severe damages these disasters have to offer including destroyed properties, lost livelihoods, and grave casualties. One of the worst examples in recent years are those caused by Typhoon ‘Reming’ in 2006, which killed more than 700 people.

The 2016 Pacific Partnership offers a chance for Albay to develop their disaster management measure as few steps further. One of the highlight of the partnership missions is the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) program, one of the newest programs to be incorporated for the first time in the Pacific Partnership.

The HADR is a think-tank and application exercise of disaster response measures among the contingents of the Pacific Partnership. It aims to share best practices and technical know-hows against natural disasters in the medical, structural, management and response capacity.

For Albayanos, the skill to contend against natural disasters is both a necessity and a continuous learning process. With the HADR, they have an opportunity to learn and contribute what they already know to the rest of world.

Within the past nine years, the 2016 Pacific Partnership is the ninth international mission to be hosted by the province of Albay. Before, the province have hosted missions like the ‘Pacific Angels’ with the US Air Force in 2012, the ‘Balikatan’ exercises with the US Army in 2014, and relief missions by the USS Peleliu for victims of typhoon ‘Reming’ in 2007.

“The HADR is a chance to develop a long-term solution, not just a ‘Band-Aid’ measure”, said Lt. Com. Kris Hooper of the USNS Mercy’s advance team (ADVON). “This is a chance for us to go shoulder-to-shoulder towards a common good, which is disaster preparedness”, added Hooper. (MAL/JBE/PIA5)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/3301466765453/feature-why-albay-is-picked-to-host-the-2016-pacific-partnership#sthash.hFTKUIRN.dpuf

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