By Johnny C. Nunez
LEGAZPI CITY, PHILIPPINES Aug. 18 (PNA) — Top US Navy officers who led the 2016 Pacific Partnership humanitarian engagements here last June have praised Albay’s “robust” disaster risk reduction (DRR) program, a strategy the whole world — and even the United States — must learn from.
US Navy Pacific Commander Commodore Tom Williams told reporters, during a recent teleconference in Malaysia, the 2016 Pacific Partnership’s fourth stop, that during their stay in Albay, known for its zero casualty goal during natural disasters, they learned “great ideas” that should be spread throughout the region.
“I learned how robust and how capable the disaster response system Team Albay has. It is a model for the way that I think many countries in the Pacific should operate,” Williams stressed to reporters, during the media event.
Albay was chosen as the Philippines’ host province for the humanitarian mission on June 27 – July 11 this year, which involved some 900 troops from the naval forces of partners powers in the Pacific region, aboard the world’s largest hospital ship of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, the USNS Mercy.
The Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo), with its emergency mobile group Team Albay, hosted the two-week mission, which involved medical and dental, engineering and sports activities. The mission had visited Timor Leste before docking in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Captain Peter Roberts, USNS Mercy commanding officer, told the same conference that Albay, which is prone to various kinds of disasters including strong typhoons and volcanic eruptions, has been able to incorporate disaster preparedness consciousness and lessons in the people’s day-to-day activities.
“I was really impressed in Albay on their posture relative to disaster response. Everybody seems to know what their role should be in the event of a disaster. I was really impressed by their intent of zero casualty. Whether or not they can achieve that, (it is) difficult to set your target that high, that stated goal of zero casualty was very impressive,” Roberts said.
He recalled a school he saw on one of which walls are painted the names of officials responsible in times of disaster: “That’s just something you would not see in the United States,” he noted, and lauded the local government’s efforts to keep the community involved.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has thanked the US Navy officers for giving recognition to his province’s disaster program.
He said the Pacific Partnership has provided an opportunity to enhance goodwill and cooperation among the region’s military forces and governments, which are vitally needed during disaster relief operations.
Salceda, former governor of Albay for three terms, has established his province’s multi-awarded DRR and CCA programs.
He said Pacific Partnership has also opened up an opportunity for Albay to show off its eco-tourism wealth, being a multi-awarded and fastest growing global tourism destination in the country.
Albay, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is itself a UN global model for CCA and DRR, and a pioneer of novel strategies in disaster resiliency with its Green Economy program.
The Pacific Partnership mission involves military and civilian personnel from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palau, the Philippines, Republic of South Korea, Singapore, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and various non-governmental organizations.
In Albay, the mission provided medical and dental services, constructed and repaired schools and other public facilities.(