News: Philippine, US service members build relationships, schools through Balikatan
Story by 1st Lt. Ray Ragan
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN, Philippines – Philippine and U.S. personnel combine forces to begin construction, March 14, at Tagbarungis Elementary School here, marking the groundbreaking start to Balikatan 2012.
BK12 is the 28th iteration of an annual exercise conducted in partnership between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. military personnel, as well as experts from the Philippine civil defense agencies. The exercise focuses on the Philippine-U.S. partnership and commitment to mutual defense and humanitarian assistance, while reinforcing longstanding cooperation.
Tagbarungis is the first of five projects in the Engineering Civic Action Program. The other remaining sites are Inagawan National High School, Kandis Elementary School, Santa Cruz Elementary School and Buena Vista Elementary School, explained U.S. Army Capt. Joshua Hughes, civil affairs team leader, Civil Affairs Team-South, Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force.
“These school projects are important because they support the local community,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Hall, civil affairs team sergeant, CAT-S, CJCMOTF. “We’re employing the community as much as possible.”
The ENCAPS are part of several scheduled humanitarian civic assistance [HCA] projects that the combined forces will provide throughout the island of Palawan. The HCA projects will include medical, dental and veterinary care, community outreach, in addition to the school building projects, said Hall.
Local expertise and labor are contracted for the ENCAP projects, as well as local materials to build the schools. The AFP will provide engineering support and expertise for the building sites. These efforts are to make the building projects truly shoulder-to-shoulder – what Balikatan means in Tagalog, added Hall.
Projected completion for all ENCAP sites are scheduled from April 23 to 27.