News: AFP, U.S. armed forces celebrate finished renovations with community members
Story by Lance Cpl. Michael Thorn
ALBAY, Philippines – Dedication ceremonies to recognize the completion of the five engineering civic assistance program sites were held May 14-16 in Albay province, Philippines.
The ENCAP projects were a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise held between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces to strengthen ties and interoperability between the two allied nations.
The sites provided additional resources to their surrounding communities in many forms. The construction done included renovations of Tamaoyan Elementary School; construction of a comfort room in Barangay Pawa; construction of classrooms and a health clinic in Malobago; and construction of classrooms at Dona Mercedes Elementary School.
“It was seamless mixing our two groups together,” said Philippine Navy Lt. Romel Sotero, an ENCAP officer-in-charge with Navy Combat Engineering Brigade. “Although we are from different countries, we share the same skills, work ethic and goals.”
While distinguished visitors, including Maj. Gens. Magnaye and Simcock, local mayors and city officials attended the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies, the majority of the audience was filled by locals from the community who came to watch the unveiling of new buildings and opportunities.
“It was an overall great experience for all of us,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Richards, corpsman with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1. “We were not only building schools and health centers, but long lasting relationships with our Filipino friends. Now that the renovations are finished, I look forward to seeing our hard work and dedication get put to good use.”
The work done at the ENCAP sites will have long-lasting positive effects, not only for the children and their parents, but for the friendship of Filipinos and Americans as we continue to work to improve the future, according to Bebiano Sentillas, the Albay Department of Education superintendent.
“You’re not just painting and building our classrooms,” said Sentillas. “You’re painting a beautiful future for our children. Balikatan will not only be written in history, but in everyone’s heart.”