Skip to main content

Philippine community, U.S. Marines work shoulder-to-shoulder to break ground at local school

PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN, Philippines - Barangay Santa Cruz community members with service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Marines with U.S. Army Civil Affairs attended a groundbreaking ceremony here March 19.

The groundbreaking ceremony is an engineering civic assistance project (ENCAP), part of the humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) events of Balikatan 2012 (BK12), which means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog. The exercise is an annual, combined exercise between the AFP and U.S. forces to enhance interoperability and foster the ability for the two forces to jointly respond quickly and effectively.

The relationship to build the school started almost a year ago, when the U.S. Marines came to Palawan, an island located southwest of mainland Philippines, to start the planning process. Philippine and U.S. planners visited various locations in coordination with local officials to nominate sites to receive an HCA school construction project.

"Santa Cruz elementary school was one of five sites throughout Palawan that received final selection for an HCA construction project. During the nomination process, numerous factors were taken into account, including logistics requirements, a demonstrated need for civic assistance, unit capabilities and training requirements," said U.S. Marine Capt. Amelia Griffith, team leader, Marine Civil Affairs Team, Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF).

The Santa Cruz Elementary School is located in Santa Cruz, an agrarian baranga located north of Puerto Princesa. The barangay has more than 1,000 people and the existing school cannot house all the children.

"(BK12 members) answered the need for more building[s] for the students, and they expect more students to come in," said Santa Cruz Barangay captain Catalina Maming, through an interpreter.

In addition to the AFP and U.S. Marines building the school, civil affairs plays a valuable role in BK12. They interact with the local populace and advise the military leadership on the needs of the community and its people.

"CA is utilized to leverage each relationship between the command and every individual, group and organization in the local community to achieve the desired effect," said Griffith.

Attending the groundbreaking, were the children, faculty of the Santa Cruz elementary school, the local community leaders, as well as the leaders of BK12's CJCMOTF, AFP Navy Capt. Rosauro Sarmiento, and deputy commander, U.S. Army Col. Philip W. Young. The two leaders are responsible for the HCA portion of BK12 on Palawan, which includes five ENCAPs, school building projects and six medical civic assistance projects (MEDCAP).

"This school belongs to very (underprivileged) people with many students in one room," said Faly Romueldeo, member, board of directors, Santa Cruz Elementary School. "It's very encouraging now for [the children] to attend classes now because of this new building."

The school building will include a water catchment system that allows the occupants to utilize the frequent rainfall of the barangay for purposes like flushing water in toilets. The AFP and U.S. Marine engineers will also install a new septic system to handle the growing needs of the school, said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Justin King, detachment officer in charge, Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

"This project will be 50 percent [AFP] Seabees and 50 percent [U.S.] Marines," said King.

Community and CJCMOTF leaders tossed coins and stones into the foundation, as part of the traditional Palawan groundbreaking ceremony called Pundasyon. The stones represent the foundation of the building, and the coins represent a wish for good luck.

Projected completion for all ENCAP sites are scheduled from April 23 to 27.

1st Lt. Ray Ragan | 351st Civil Affairs Command |  | Article Link

More Philippine Defense News

DND wants frigate with 'surface-to-air' missile power

MANILA, Philippines - Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez announced on Friday that one of the frigates to be acquired by the Philippines will have "surface-to-air" capabilities. That is, the ship will have the capability to fire missiles, guided by radar or heat sensors, at airborne targets.
"Aside from this, our latest frigate will have heavier gun armament and other equipment that will make it very effective in patrolling and securing the country's waters," Galvez said in Filipino.
He declined to state the particular country the Philippines will acquire this ship but stressed that acquisition will be done through a government-to-government transaction.
The Philippines has taken on a new sense of urgency to upgrade its naval capabilities as tensions continue to rise around the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). US President Barack Obama's announced "pivot" for America towards the Pacific has stirred greater naval activity on the p…

No reduction in AFP manpower size

THERE will be no reduction in the number of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when it implements the streamlining of commands by 2013, a senior officer told the Manila Standard in an exclusive interview.
“Under the Force Structure Review, there will be streamlining of units but this does not mean reduction in terms of the number of soldiers. In fact, the FSR calls for more recruits in the future,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.
At present, the military has a total of 125,000 soldiers, of which almost 85,000 are in the Army and the rest in the Navy-Marines and Air Force.
The FSR calls for an in-depth study of the AFP history in reference to pertinent laws of the land in conjunction with the challenges of internal and external defense.
The study also calls for the establishment of a strategic command that will focus on external defense where the main force would be the Air Force and Navy.
On instructions of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former military ch…

Philippine Armored Vehicles with ad-hoc wood slat armor

While searching for Philippine armored vehicles for the updates being done for both the blog and the Facebook page I chanced upon images of Philippine Army and Marine armor assets covered with thick wood planks as slat armor for protection from rocket propelled grenades. This caught the eyes of Popular Mechanics who published an article last June 8th just for this subject.

According to the article,
Wood armor on armored vehicles won't save them from ISIS rockets. Not sure, I'll leave that to the actual reports from the Philippine Military in using wood as an ad hoc protection for rpg's, but yes this is only during emergencies. The Philippine Army and Philippine Marines should employ or use the real add-on armors currently in the market for armored vehicle protection. Or they could just simply buy new thicker-armored vehicles to be used for front-line operations and have the old vehicles to be used in secondary missions or as support vehicles.

Nonetheless the fast-thinkin…