Helicopters From US Carrier Deliver Aid To Iloilo

Helicopters From US Carrier Deliver Aid To Iloilo
June 27th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Helicopters From US Carrier Deliver Aid To Iloilo

Helicopters From US Carrier Deliver Aid To Iloilo
Philippine Star
June 27, 2008 By Pia Lee-Brago
American military personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group were deployed yesterday to distribute relief goods and provide assistance to typhoon victims.
The US Embassy in Manila announced the arrival of the carrier group, which started the relief and rehabilitation work with local officials in the areas worst hit by the storm.
Local officials helped American troops in unloading boxes of rice and bottled water at the Iloilo International Airport as part of a joint US-Philippine humanitarian relief effort.
Two planes and three helicopters from USS Ronald Reagan delivered a total of 11,000 pounds of rice and over 20,000 bottles of water and turned them over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to communities severely affected by the typhoon.
Six US Navy Seahawk helicopters from the aircraft carrier arrived in Iloilo City, which bore the brunt of typhoon “Frank” (international codename Fengshen) when it slammed into the Philippines on Saturday.
“We will use our air assets to transport relief goods into inaccessible areas,” said Captain Thomas Lalor, deputy commander of the helicopter group.
“We are here to give the local officials whatever help they require.”
More than 490 people died and more than a million have been left homeless by the typhoon, according to civil defense estimates.
The number does not include the hundreds presumed killed when the Princess of the Stars, battered by extreme weather, sank carrying more than 850 people.
US President George W. Bush ordered the carrier group to proceed to the Philippines during talks on Tuesday with President Arroyo in Washington.
“We want to help our friends in a time of need,” Bush told Mrs. Arroyo as they met in the White House.
A US Navy supply ship, divers and a maritime patrol aircraft arrived earlier and helped local officials in finding victims of the ferry disaster.
“The arrival of the aircraft carrier group in the Republic of the Philippines exemplifies the longstanding ties between the United States and the Philippines and the US commitment to assisting the Philippines, in keeping with our mutual commitments under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty,” the embassy said.
Rescue officials led by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said the US government’s help in sending the carrier group to the relief efforts showed the good results of President Arroyo’s trip to the US while the Philippines was being battered by the typhoon.
Gordon said the decision to send USS Ronald Reagan, among other assistance, would be of great help in retrieving the bodies of the victims of the ferry sinking.
“I saw ships, for commercial and fishing, just passing by the bodies, they will not stop because it’s a waste of time for them to retrieve the bodies so we need all the assistance we can get,” Gordon said.
He said Mrs. Arroyo was able to expand US help with her visit, among other benefits of personally meeting US officials and businessmen.
According to Gordon, the congressmen who went with Mrs. Arroyo in the US should be criticized.
“Maybe those from the Visayas should come home because they are badly needed by their constituents,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he was supposed to join the trip to lobby for the bill pending in the US Congress granting benefits to Filipino war veterans but decided to stay to lead the PNRC in relief and other efforts to help the victims displaced by the typhoon.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., for his part, joined Sen. Francis Pangilinan in urging Mrs. Arroyo to return to the country and attend to the victims of the typhoon.
“Her meeting with (US President George W.) Bush is done. She must come home and exercise leadership. As for the congressmen, perhaps only those whose districts were damaged by the typhoon (should return),” Pimentel said.
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, for his part, clarified he did not see any violation of the Constitution in allowing USS Ronald Reagan to enter the country.
Biazon stressed he was not against any assistance being sent by the US.
“The only concern I am raising is that maybe it is better if the United States send salvage ships which are better equipped to do what has to be done relative to the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars. I am not against USS Ronald Reagan coming in with other ships,” Biazon said.
Biazon expressed his concern that the aircraft carrier could be carrying nuclear weapons that are banned under the Constitution.
--With Aurea Calica

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