300 Korean soldiers in Visayas for rehab-A A +A
Saturday, December 28, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Some 300 members of the South Korean Army were deployed on Friday to different towns in the Visayas to conduct rehabilitation work in communities recovering from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Hyuk Lee said an additional 200 personnel from the Korean Navy are scheduled to arrive, also to help in the rehabilitation efforts.
The international community has pledged an estimated P20.99 billion worth of non-cash assistance in Yolanda’s wake, including the work done by enlisted personnel and trained civilians alike.
So far, the Philippine Government said it has received P592.58 million in cash, out of the P23.79 billion pledged by various countries, after the United Nations (UN) appealed for help in rebuilding after one of the worst storms on record.
As of Friday, December 27, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recorded P36.69 billion in lost crops and fallen infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and town halls. More than one million houses need to be fixed or rebuilt.
At least 6,111 have died, and 28,626 suffered injuries, with 1,779 others still missing.
The UN recently appealed to the international community to speed up and scale up its assistance, and to not let Yolanda/Haiyan become “a forgotten crisis.”
The 300 members of the Republic of Korea Army Unit arrived Friday at the Mactan Benito Ebuen Airbase in Lapu-Lapu City, together with the ambassador.
Korean nationals who have been staying in Cebu, barangay health workers from Cordova and some Cebuanos waited for the arrival of the guests. They brought little Philippine and Korean flags.
A send-off ceremony was held right at the air base.
Among the guests were Undersecretary Eduardo Batac of the Civil, Veterans and Reserve Affairs of the Department of National Defense, Cebu Korean Association Chairman Bong Hwan Cho, Major General John Bonafos of Central Command and Colonel Chul Won Lee, commander of the Republic of Korea Joint Support Group.
Also present were Cordova Municipal Mayor Adelino Sitoy and Vice Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy.
In his welcome speech, Ambassador Lee recalled that in 1950, there were 7,400 Filipino soldiers sent to South Korea to help fight in the war against North Korea.
Lee said there were 112 Filipino soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of South Koreans. He said the Philippines was the first Asian country that immediately responded to help them during the war, which lasted for three years.
“Now Korean troops are here not to fight, but to help with the reconstruction and rehabilitation,” he said.
A press statement from the Korean Government said the force is named “ROK Unit Araw.”
“The Korean Government named the dispatched contingent ‘Araw’ with hopes that the unit will send messages of courage and hope to the Filipinos through their devoted disaster recovery activities,” a part of the press statement read.
The Araw group consists of personnel from the Korean Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Many are engineers and medics.
They will provide medical aid and repair public infrastructure, including the water systems. The ambassador said they brought with them some equipment, which will be used in rebuilding houses.
Ambassador Lee said the members of the Korean army will be staying in the Philippines for six months up to a year, and they will be deployed to the towns of Tanauan, Palo and Tolosa in Leyte and other areas.
“Tacloban is taken by many other international governments and NGOs (non-government organizations) so we feel that other areas were a little bit neglected,” Lee said.
Once the group is done with their jobs in a particular area, they will move to other communities to continue their rehabilitation work.
On behalf of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Batac extended his “profound appreciation” for South Korea’s “unwavering friendship and support.”
Batac said their challenge will be to coordinate all the foreign assistance.
In his speech, Bonafos said South Korea is one of the countries that immediately responded by providing relief goods and medicines to the typhoon survivors in the Visayas.
Earlier, the South Korean Government gave $5 million in assistance to the Philippine Government for the typhoon survivors.
Bonafos thanked the Korean Government.
Colonel Lee assured their support to help ravaged communities recover quickly.
“The Philippines is a true friend. We have to return the kindness that the Philippines has shown to us,” Colonel Lee said. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 28, 2013.