United States and Filipino troops under this year’s Balikatan exercises will simulate a response for a strong earthquake that is almost similar to the one that devastated Japan last year, military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said yesterday.
Burgos said civilian government agencies will join the Balikatan troops, composed of 4,500 American and 2,300 Filipino soldiers, in simulating actions for an 8.1 magnitude quake.
The US Geological Survey placed the strength of the March 11, 2011 quake in Japan at magnitude 9. While Japan prepared for the effects of a devastating earthquake, it did not prepare for a tsunami and a nuclear plant meltdown in Fukushima.
Burgos said the scale of the damage is still evident in northeast Japan and clean-up efforts are taking up huge government funds, in what is known as the world’s most earthquake-prepared country.
He said the disaster response will be drawn up under the Command Post Exercise phase of Balikatan on April 16 to April 26.
Burgos said the Balikatan exercises will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response for a very strong earthquake originating from the West Valley Fault (a part of the Valley Fault System formerly known as Marikina Fault).
He said the command post exercise will be held at the headquarters of the AFP’s National Capital Region Command in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. He said the exercises will test the concept plans of the AFP and government agencies, identify the gaps and solutions from previous disasters, and anticipate future calamities.
Burgos said the simulation of the disaster response will also involve National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Office of Civil Defense, Metro Manila Disaster Coordinating Council, the United States Agency for International Development, United Nations Country Team, United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Program, International Federation of the Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross.
US and Filipino soldiers will be involved in Humanitarian and Civic Assistance – the second phase of Balikatan – by constructing five classrooms and conducting of medical, dental, veterinary and civic programs in Palawan.
Another phase of the exercise, the Cross Training and Field Training Exercises, will involve actual war exercises in various parts of Luzon, including at the West Philippine Sea in Palawan.
The war exercises in Palawan, including gas and oil platform defense and retake, will be conducted within Philippine territory. The disputed Spratly Islands – being claimed by Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam – is located in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who represented President Aquino during the commemoration of the Great East Japan Earthquake 2011 held at UP Diliman renewed the Philippines’ offer to help rebuild earthquake-devastated areas in Japan.
The event was also attended by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., UP President Alfredo Pascual and Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe.