News: Efforts in Guiuan shift from relief to recovery
Story by Cpl. Adam Miller
GUIUAN, Philippines - Two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged 36 provinces here, relief efforts are shifting toward recovery.
In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, Marines have supported the Government of the Philippines and the U.S. Agency for International Development in their efforts to provide disaster relief and aid to the nearly 4.2 million citizens affected by the typhoon.
With the unique relief capabilities provided by the Marine Corps no longer needed, the Government of the Philippines, international non-government organizations and USAID are now shifting focus toward recovery operations.
“Right now we’re retrograding out of Guiuan Airfield because all of the capabilities we brought are no longer required,” said Capt. Akeem O. Adelagun, a civil affairs officer with the Civil Affairs Team, currently assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505 during Operation Damayan. “The non-government organizations, the mayor of Guiuan and the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) are (still) in charge.”
The Marine Corps maintains significant capability forward-deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. With forward-deployed forces, rapid and fully capable deployments to disasters like Typhoon Haiyan are made possible.
“The biggest determination (in how long we stay) is the fact that we are here to fill a specific capability, whether it is with air traffic control or to support USAID with civil assessment,” said Adelagun.
The Marine Corps’ ability to rapidly respond to the Philippine government’s request for assistance reaffirms the value of the close cooperation shared between the U.S. and the Philippines.
“At first, we needed all the help we could get from anyone willing, but now we have things under control on our own here at Guiuan,” said Col. Wilson M. Leyva, commander of the 801st Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army and the task group commander of Guiuan Airfield. “It would be incredibly difficult to help the people of Guiuan and others affected by the disaster without the support of the (U.S. Marines), their friendship and cooperation.”
The role of the U.S. military forces during any foreign humanitarian assistance event is to rapidly respond with support to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life and mitigate greater property damage.
“It is nice to have the Marines here in Guiuan to help us get supplies to the (victims of the typhoon); they are a big help,” said Tech. Sgt. Romeo A. Besarra, a motor vehicle operator with the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. “I made friends with a few of the Marines just talking about our jobs. One of the Marines I made good friends with has the same job as I do, so we had a lot to talk about.”
Since 1990, the U.S. Government has responded to more than 40 disasters in the Philippines at the request of their government, ranging from volcanic eruptions, drought and population displacement.
“In a time like this, it makes me happy to see that my soldiers and the U.S. can get along together so well and become friends,” said Leyva. “I want the Marines to know that we are thankful for them being here in our time of need, without them this would have been very difficult.”