Army activates special disaster unit in Bicol; gears for La Niņa
by MS Argeulles and Maj. HM Cabunoc
Pili, Camarines Sur (11 June) -- Bracing for the on set of the wet spell, the Philippine Army (PA) in Bicol has activated a special unit tasked to conduct disaster response operations (DRO) in times of natural calamities and other forms of disasters, a ranking military official said.
Army Major General Ruperto Pabustan, commanding general of the 9th Infantry Division, said the activation of the Army's disaster unit would be a response strategy against possible negative impacts of La Niņa, a climate phenomenon that brings heavy rains, storms and other weather disturbances in the community.
Pabustan, said various natural calamities that had stricken the country last year prompted the activation of the disaster unit
"Last year, we had shown the bravery of our soldiers who crossed raging floodwaters to save hapless victims, despite of the lack of rescue equipment. This time, I have ensured that they are issued the necessary equipment and the proper training as well," said Pabustan.
Major Harold Cabunoc, 9th ID Spokesperson, said that the newly activated 35-man strong DRO unit will undergo two weeks rigid training in the field of disaster response operations.
Cabunoc said that the unit has started various skills development training such as Rope Technician's Course (RTC), Mountain Operations Search and Rescue (MOSAR), Water Search and Rescue (WASAR) and spine board training.
First Lieutenant Ronnie Sicad, the DRO leader, said that the special unit is still undergoing a series of sustainment training activities to further develop their confidence and abilities.
"We are conducting daily practices on combat life saving and rope courses which are among the most important skills that we need to help the victims of heavy flooding and the typhoons," Sicad said, during the strenuous rappelling activity Monday.
Aside from the skills training, the new DRO unit is equipped with rubber boats, sophisticated ropes, flares and floating devices.
4x4 medium built KM 450 trucks are also among the fleet of vehicles that are issued to this unit.
The highly-trained soldiers of this unit are also responsible for the training of the selected soldiers who are assigned in different provinces in the region. Mobile training teams will be sent to re-echo the skills and knowledge needed by the Army rescue operators.
As this developed, 49 towns in Bicol have been identified as landslide prone areas by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Bicol.
On the onset of the wet spell environment authorities warn residents in these areas to prepare and evacuate to safer grounds, once heavy rains and typhoons occur.
Reynaldo A. Juan, MGB Bicol regional director, reiterated his warning to residents of the dangers pose to lives and properties once floods and landslide hits these places.
Juan said places at high risk to landslide are eight towns and a city in Albay, 8 towns in Camarines Norte, 12 in Camarines Sur, 8 in Catanduanes, five in Masbate and seven in Sorsogon.
Juan said the residents of the following municipalities should be prepared and evacuate to safer grounds when continuous rain in their localities occurs: Bacacay, Libon, Malilipot, Malinao, Manito, Rapu-Rapu, Sto. Domingo, Tiwi and Ligao in Albay; Basud, Capalonga, Labo, Mercedes, Paracale, San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Vicente, and Sta. Elena in Camarines Norte;
Buhi, Caramoan, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Libmanan, Lupi, Pasacao, Presentacion, Sagnay, Sipocot and Tinambac in Camarines Sur; Bagamanoc, Baras, Bato, Caramoran, Gigmoto, Pandan, Panganiban, and San Andres in Catanduanes; Aroroy, Baleno, Mandaon, Milagros, and Mobo in Masbate; and Bulan, Irosin, Juban, Magallanes, Matnog, Sta. Magdalena and Sorsogon City in Sorsogon.
He, however, clarified that residents of other municipalities not named are encouraged to observe the necessary precaution and preparation to evacuate to safer grounds when in their area signs of an impending landslide may occur or have history of landslide in the past. (PNA Bicol/9ID PA-DPAO) [top]