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MANILA, Philippines - Filipino and American soldiers, together with civilian personnel of government agencies, will simulate humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR) in an event of a Japan-like earthquake during this year's Balikatan Exercise.
The HA/DR efforts will focus on "an earthquake originating from the West Valley Fault (a part of the Valley Fault System formerly known as Marikina Fault) and the subsequent disaster that it will entail."
The HA/DR Command Post Exercise, which will be installed in the National Capital Region Command in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, will simulate and plan to address the devastation of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake.
The 2012 "Balikatan Exercise" will take place between April 16 and 27. It will be conducted to test the current HA/DR concept plans of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government agencies.
The activity seeks to identify gaps and solutions from previous disasters in the Philippines and firm up action for future calamities.
It will be participated in by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management/Office of Civil Defense, Metro Manila Disaster Coordinating Council, AFP, United States Agency for International Development, U.S. Pacific Command, United Nations Country Team, U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Program, International Federation of the Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross.
This year’s Balikatan is the 28th of the series and the third one to be focused on HA/DR.
The participation of civilian counterparts is seen as a major move in establishing interoperability of the military and civilian agencies in addressing disasters on a catastrophic scale.
The military has been a major component of HA/DR efforts in every disaster, and soldiers are among the first responders in calamities.
“The HA/DR focus of the 'Balikatan Exercise' reflects the joint commitment of the AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces in providing much needed help not only here in the country but around the world. In times of calamities, 'Balikatan', a Filipino word meaning 'shoulder-to-shoulder' characterizes the philosophy and intent of the exercise,” AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen Jessie D. Dellosa said.
Japan, which experienced last year’s strongest earthquake in decades, will be sending two observers in the HA/DR table top exercise together with Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Philippines recently suffered from a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in the Visayas region that claimed the lives of 51 people and injured 112 others.
This month, the province of Masbate experienced a 5.2- magnitude tremor that injured several persons and damaged some structures.
In July 1990, mainland Luzon suffered from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of about 1,620 people.