The Philippines is no stranger to strong typhoons. But with Super Typhoon Rolly, the world’s most powerful tropical cyclone yet in 2020, and Typhoon Ulysses, the country’s 21st tropical cyclone this year, causing destruction amid an economic recession caused by a pandemic, it is an entirely different story.
Ulysses unleashed powerful winds and torrential rains, just like Rolly, killing dozens of people, destroying homes, and leaving areas in Luzon flooded, making it one of the deadliest tropical cyclones to hit this year.
With little to no light in their surroundings as electric posts were destroyed by the typhoon, thousands cried for help on their roofs surrounded by floodwater.
Families with infants, elderlies, pets, and livestock were basically soaked by the typhoon’s nonstop outburst. Fortunately, no one’s sleeping in the military and aid came instantaneously.
Philippine Air Force (PAF)
Working hard to deliver aid and rescue residents in typhoon- and flood-hit communities, the Philippine Air Force (PAF), through its helicopters, transported tons of relief goods and items. The relief items consist of boxes of bottled water, sacks of assorted goods, and used clothing.
The PAF Civil-Military Operations Group, aside from distributing some 1,135 bags of food packs and 172 sacks of donated rice, also conducted humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions in Cagayan Valley. A 78-year-old woman who needs urgent dialysis was airlifted on board a military rescue chopper (Sikorsky S-76).
PAF efforts included the deployment of water search-and-rescue (WASAR) teams, the conduct of rapid damage assessment and needs analysis (RDANA), humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) missions, and aerial surveys.
PAF units are now hard at work bringing assistance to affected communities in Central, Southern Luzon, and the National Capital Region (NCR).
Philippine Army (PA)
As part of the soldiers’ humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) mission, a squad of Philippine Army soldiers was deployed to typhoon-affected areas.
In Dingalan town, PA has conducted humanitarian assistance to 2,187 families affected by Typhoon Ulysses. Army troopers provided security and workforce assistance in distributing relief goods to thousands of families in typhoon-struck barangays.
In Southern Tagalog, the soldiers rescued 67,480 distressed individuals in the provinces of Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon.
The 2nd Infantry Division has deployed 86 “search, rescue, and retrieval” (SRR) teams in typhoon-affected areas for HADR missions.
Philippine Navy (PN)
The Philippine Navy (PN), helping in relief efforts since November 12, remains hard at work conducting various rescue operations in different parts of Luzon and Metro Manila.
The PN reservists and assets have been on the frontlines, helping regular Navy units and other government agencies evacuate and rescue affected families residing in flood-submerged communities.
PN reserve forces across Luzon have participated in the packing and distribution of relief goods to different communities in Metro Manila and other Luzon provinces.
PN also deployed two water search-and-rescue (WASAR) teams to augment the current inter-agency rescue efforts for flood-affected families and Cagayan residents.
The landing dock BRP Tarlac (LD-601), carrying 240 tons of relief items and construction materials, has been deployed as well. The ship also carries heavy equipment, trucks, and trailers for clearing operations and rehabilitation efforts.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), meanwhile, has deployed rescue teams to Cagayan and Isabela.
Thus far, different military units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have rescued more than 250,000 individuals in the areas severely hit by the two consecutive typhoons.
Through continuous search, rescue, and retrieval (SRR) operations, the AFP units have saved thousands of lives from the massive flooding in various parts of Luzon.
Borrowing the words of AFP Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay: “Our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines have switched their firearms with ropes, life rings, and life jackets to respond to the cries for help during heavy and widespread flooding that affected our people.”
Amid the challenges brought by natural calamities, the military set aside their “siesta.” They braved the wrath of Rolly and Ulysses, even if this could mean that they might not see the light of day anymore. Epitomizing the “Bayanihan” spirit, we thank our Filipino comrade-in-arms.