By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – The Philippine contingent deployed to help victims of the Feb. 6 magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Türkiye arrived in Istanbul on Thursday noon.
“Our response team just confirmed that they landed at Istanbul. Our OCD (Office of Civil Defense) representative messaged at 12:08 p.m. (PST) that they landed,” said OCD joint information center head Diego Agustin Mariano in a message to reporters.
He added that the Philippine contingent departed from Manila for Istanbul around midnight.
These personnel were aboard Turkish Airlines Flight TK 85.
The Filipino contingent consisted of 82 personnel, of which 33 are from the Armed Forces of the Philippines; 21 from the Army’s 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, 51st Engineer Brigade; and 12 from the Air Force 505th Search and Rescue Group.
Other contingent members are as follows, two from the OCD, nine from the Metro Manila Development Authority, eight from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and 30 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) from the Department of Health.
Earlier, Defense officer-in-charge Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said they aimed for this team to rely on their own and not be a burden to the host country.
The contingent will also bring goods to be donated to the quake victims. These goods include clothing and sleeping kits for winter, and hygiene and sanitary kits, which will be provided by the OCD, together with the private sector and local government units.
“This is our contribution to humanity, and the President ordered us for the response teams to prepare for deployment, for the people of Türkiye,” Galvez said.
Meanwhile, OCD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro said the Philippine contingent will be deployed to the city of Adana which is an hour and a half away by air and south of Istanbul.
They will be transported by their Turkish counterparts to their assigned area later on Thursday and are expected to start their mission on Friday.
Bernardo said around 18 buildings collapsed in Adana due to the earthquake.
Upon arrival there, the Philippine contingent will register at the Adana emergency operations center.
After which, they will establish their command post and billeting as a Philippine contingent.
As this developed, implementing panel chair for the Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) Peace Accord Cesar B. Yano on Thursday expressed his sympathies for the thousands of victims of the earthquake.
“On behalf of the Government Peace Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF Peace Accord, I convey our sincerest sympathy and prayers for the people of Türkiye and Syria who have been severely affected by the catastrophic damages brought by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake,” he added.
Yano said they all stand with the people of Türkiye and Syria – who as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have supported the earlier stages of the Bangsamoro peace process.
He also lauded Türkiye for its steadfast participation that has contributed towards the finalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“As we place their contributions in the highest esteem especially during trying times in the peace process, we together with our brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro remember and are in solidarity with Türkiye and Syria to rise in fortitude and renewed hope from this tragic loss,” Yano stressed. (PNA)