Rescue of victims trapped in quake-collapsed structure part of ‘Balikatan’ drills

MANILA — Urban search and rescue will be among the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) drills that will be undertaken during this year’s “Balikatan” exercises on May 8-19.

This was confirmed Thursday by Philippine “Balikatan” spokesperson, Maj. Frank Sayson when asked whether rescuing individuals trapped in structures that collapsed during an earthquake is part of the scenarios during this year’s maneuvers.

“There will be urban search and rescue (exercises) at 7th Infantry Division headquarters in Fort Magsaysay for that particular scenario. It will be one of the highlights of this year’s ‘Balikatan’ manuevers,” he said in Filipino.

Sayson said international observers will witness the event on May 12.

Such drills need to be practiced, considering that the country is located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, making it prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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. It 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 roads leading to Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte of debris. Priam Nepomuceno/