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Friday, October 2, 2009

JSOTF-P, Red Cross distribute food to Ondoy victims

By Lieutenant Lara Bollinger Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines Public Affairs

MANILA, Philippines - Members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines joined USAID and Philippine National Red Cross distributed bags of food to victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy (known internationally as Ketsana) in metropolitan Manila Sept. 29.

JSOTF-P assisted in this interagency event, handing out 132 sacks of rice and 924 ration bags to 882 families (more than 4,000 affected people) in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City in an evacuation center that was set up at Diosdado Macapagal Elementary School. Five hundred of those families were displaced due to an electrical fire that burned down their homes one day after massive floods ravaged their barangay.

“Our people needed very much the help of the U.S. and Red Cross,” said Dick Banega, Tatalon Barangay Chairman.

The distribution was organized by USAID and JSOTF-P with assistance from the PNRC, Philippine National Police, and the Local Government Unit. Events centered around the communities feeding program, and personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were there cooking for the evacuees.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Philippine Senator Richard Gordon were on hand to speak to the community, joining JSOTF-P personnel, USAID, and U.S. Embassy marine guards to hand out food.

“Our people are very happy to see US Soldiers coming over and helping us. They are just amazed that there are Americans helping. That’s wonderful,” Banega said.

JSOTF-P civil affairs teams and USAID personnel conducted assessments Sept. 28 to determine which barangays needed urgent assistance. Tatalon was selected after teams visited four affected barangays around Manila.

“We determined that this was the best spot because it has a large population and is more accessible by our vehicles. Out of all the affected areas, Tatalon was the most neglected because other worse-hit areas received aid first,” said Capt. Al De Veyra, JSOTF-P civil military liaison to USAID.

Trash and mud lined the streets of Tatalon, overwhelming the community in clean-up efforts and clogging traffic. The lingering stench brought in by the flood waters was enhanced by the stagnant heat.

“Of the areas we visited, two were already on the road to recovery, receiving government assistance. The other barangay was very remote and was also earmarked for government assistance. But Tatalon was in a heavily-trafficked urban area, and had not received any aid yet,” he said.

This event was part of JSOTF-P’s overall relief efforts in the wake of Ondoy. U.S. Navy Special Boat teams, SEALs, and medical personnel attached to JSOTF-P rescued 52 people from flooded-out houses and delivered food to flood victims in Cainta, Metro Manila Sept. 27.

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