Four helicopters were dispatched by the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command to Cagayan Valley on Saturday as they shift the focus of their “post-Ulysses” humanitarian missions to Region 2.
NOLCOM Commander Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr issued the order after unprecedented flooding was recorded in the province’s history.
“My order is for these air assets not to have idle time”, said Maj Gen Burgos while adding that “they will be stationed in Cauayan, Isabela and, in coordination with the provincial government, will be deployed for Search, Rescue, Retrieval and Relief Operations particularly on those far-flung areas which land-based vehicles are unable to reach.”
“These strategic assets under NOLCOM, which come with four Search and Rescue Teams, will complement the 138 SRR Teams of 5th Infantry Division, the core of which is composed of two Army Battalions and one Marine Battalion Landing Team, who are at all times in close coordination with the different Disaster Risk Reduction Offices from the Region as well as in the Provincial down to the municipal levels”, he added.
Based on experts’ assessments, the massive flooding was due to numerous factors such as Magat Dam’s opening of gates and the large number of rainwater from the Sierra Madres and Cordillera Mountain Ranges which have now finally reached the lowlands of Cagayan Valley. These were compounded by the high water level in the seas thereby causing “back flow” from the supposed outlets of major water ways in the region.
It can be recalled that since October, when a series of weather disturbances started threatening Northern and Central Luzon, Maj Gen Burgos has already placed all military units, personnel and equipment under him on alert and directed them to be ready to respond should the need arise.
“There really is no substitute for long drawn planning and preparation” something which, according to him, “includes our proactive actions of prepositioning not just our forces before the typhoon but also relief goods for the would-be affected communities”, explained Maj Gen Burgos.
He ended his statement by assuring the people of Cagayan that “your soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are one with you and will be by your side every step of the way as you move forward from this calamity. No amount of rain will drench our resolve to help you, no amount of mud will hinder us to reach and protect you.”
Aside from Region 2, hundreds of NOLCOM troopers are currently deployed to other Ulysses’ hard hit areas such as Aurora in Region 3, Pagudpud in Ilocos Region and Ifugao in Cordillera Administrative Region. They are part of the more than 200 Disaster Response Teams that were activated and deployed by NOLCOM.
According to the military, one C-130 and a C-295 aircraft have been dedicated to support the Cagayan Valley relief operations. As of the moment, plans are underway for it to be used to ferry 11 additional Disaster Response Teams with equipment from the National Capital Region.
Gov Emmanuel Mamba of Cagayan Valley earlier expressed his people’s gratitude to the men and women of NOLCOM for the close coordination and collaboration throughout the calamity. NORTHERN LUZON COMMAND PIO