US troops conclude mission in Yolanda-hit areas

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

ALMOST a month after being deployed in Eastern Visayas, around 12,000 American troops conducting relief and humanitarian aid operations started to leave towns devastated by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said that the United States forces have already bid farewell from the Multinational Cooperating Center (MNCC) Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"Right now, a lot of the assets have already pulled out and the Joint Task Force 505 has already left. Majority of the troops have already pulled out except for a few especially USNS Bowditch, which is still on standby here in the Philippines," he said.

Zagala added that a small contingent of the US troops is still in the country and ready to give assistance, particularly in the use of sea vessels and aircraft in transporting humanitarian aid.

"What remains here is a small contingent which is part of the system we established long before," Zagala said.

The US Armed Forces is among the first foreign responders after the onslaught of Yolanda in Eastern Visayas particularly in Leyte and Samar. They provided crucial early relief support with unique capabilities, including fixed wing and tilt rotor aircraft delivering supplies to remote areas. They also conducted damage surveys, sent food and water, and assisted the movement of displaced persons.

During its peak, the US military efforts included more than 13,400 military personnel, 66 aircraft and 12 naval vessels and have delivered more than 2,495 tons of relief supplies and evacuated over 21,000 people.

Over 1,300 flights were completed in support of the relief efforts for Operation Damayan delivering to approximately 450 sites.

Zagala noted that seven nations, which are part of the MNCC, remain in the country and participating in the relief and humanitarian efforts.

"Right now, we still have seven countries which are part of the MNCC. They are still here; they are still sending vessels and air assets. It's a continuous co-effort and these countries came to our aid and we need it," Zagala said.

AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Allan Luga said that the Operation Damayan is just one of the many benefits of the long-time friendship and partnership between the US Armed Forces and the AFP and explained that it is an example of the assistance and cooperation that exists between the US and the Philippines for mutual security.

"The US Pacific Command was among the first to come and help in a time of great need for us. Thus, we are very thankful for their all-out and generous support to our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations," Luga said. (Sunnex)

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