‘Balikatan’ troops conduct HADR drills in Fort Magsaysay

MANILA — Filipino and American troops on Friday practiced urban search-and-rescue and collapsed structure exercises in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija as part of the 33rd iteration of “Balikatan”.

This year’s exercises will highlight humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) drills, including methods to rescue people trapped in collapsed structures, a common occurrence during massive earthquakes.

Philippine “Balikatan” spokesperson, Maj. Frank Sayson, said such exercises need to be practiced considering that the country is located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, making it prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Some 2,800 Filipino soldiers, 2,600 American troops, 80 members of the Australian Defense Force, and 20 members of the Japan Self Defense Forces are joining the Balikatan exercises, which formally began May 8 and will end on May 19.

Incidentally, the Philippine Army’s 525th Engineering Combat Battalion, which is based in Libis, Quezon City, will be one of the first units to be deployed should a major disaster strike Metro Manila and its environment.

The 525th Engineering Combat Battalion is the Army’s premier HADR unit. An engineering battalion consists of 500 to 1,000 officers and enlisted personnel and is equipped with bulldozers, backhoes and other heavy construction equipment.

The 525th Engineering Combat Battalion was one of the first military units deployed to Leyte during the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013.

Together with units of the Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division, the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion helped clear off debris along the roads leading to Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte. PFN/PNA-northboundasia.com