By Priam Nepomuceno

READY TO HELP. A US Marine Corps KC-130J “Hercules” aircraft stationed at the Villamor Airbase, Pasay City in this undated photo. The AFP on Monday (Feb. 12, 2024) said the US Marine Corps would deploy two “Hercules” aircraft for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for landslide-hit areas in Barangay Masara, Maco, Davao de Oro province. (Photo courtesy of the AFP/JUSMAG)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday announced that two United States Marine Corps KC-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft would join the relief efforts in Barangay Masara, Maco, Davao de Oro province by delivering supplies to residents affected by a landslide in the area.

“In a collaborative effort between the United States Armed Forces and the AFP, two US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft will be providing assistance in delivering supplies to the affected communities of the Masara landslide in Mindanao,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

The two aircraft are stationed at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City while the processing, weighing and loading of supplies are ongoing.

Trinidad said the plan is to make “four deliveries daily (two per plane) to maintain a steady supply to the affected areas.”

“The US Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force will assist with the ongoing disaster relief mission with troops from the Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing delivering essential supplies for distribution,” he added.

Trinidad said this joint effort highlights the shared commitment of the two countries to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as shown in the US-Philippines “maritime cooperative activity” (MCA) in the West Philippine Sea on Feb. 9 to 10.

Sustain relief efforts

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., meanwhile, directed the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to ensure that relief efforts in the Caraga region are in full swing.

As of Sunday, a total of 113,463 families in the region have so far been affected by bad weather caused by the northeast monsoon and the trough of a low pressure area, according to the OCD.

The region has so far received nearly PHP72 million worth of relief assistance, which came from various government agencies including the OCD, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health, local government units of different provinces, and several non-government organizations.

“The local government units and various government agencies are ensuring that all needed assistance is provided to aid the affected families. We thank those several non-governmental organizations that have also extended assistance,” OCD administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno said in a statement.

More assistance

Meanwhile, the US government will also provide nearly PHP70 million (USD1.25 million) in humanitarian aid to Mindanao.

In a news release on Monday, the US Embassy in the Philippines said the new funding would provide emergency food, shelter, water, sanitation, and essential hygiene items to support disaster-affected communities in Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, and Davao City.

Last week, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the International Organization for Migration to provide emergency shelter for more than 5,000 affected individuals.

The USAID also supported the World Food Programme to transport Department of Social Welfare and Development food packs to 65,000 families.

“We are proud to partner with the Philippine government to support the immediate needs of Mindanaoans in the areas hardest hit by the flooding and landslides,” USAID mission director Ryan Washburn said.

“This support will help ensure that food and other life-saving supplies reach communities most in need.” (with Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)