NDRRMC: Troop movements to Sulu won't hamper disaster response
MANILA, Philippines – Disaster management chief Ricardo Jalad allayed concerns about the country's readiness for upcoming typhoons because of movements of troops and assets from typhoon-prone areas to Sulu, where the military has intensified operations against terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
"Other agencies are ready to take the role [of disaster response]," Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), told Rappler in a text message on Sunday, October 2.
"The Philippine National Police has the manpower and transportation assets. The Coast Guard has patrol craft which can be used for disaster response," Jalad added.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin raised the concern during plenary debates on the budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), which supervises the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Villarin said it is crucial to preposition troops and assets in disaster-prone areas, highlighting that this was the lesson from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which flattened communities in central Philippines and killed at least 6,000 people in 2013.
President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf after the loose network of militants perpetrated a series of beheadings.
Peace talks with communist rebels allowed the AFP to reduce military presence in traditional areas of the New People's Army, including typhoon-prone provinces in the country's eastern border, to augment troops in Sulu.
Jalad said the AFP is only one of the agencies tasked to respond to disasters, noting the role of local government units as well as civilian volunteers and organizations. (READ: New NDRRMC chief: Disaster preparedness everybody's responsibility)
"Disaster response is not an issue to hinder AFP from performing its current ISO (Internal Security Operation) mission which is their primary task anyway," said Jalad.
"We are slowly departing from too much reliance on military assets for disaster response," he added.
Thousands of troops were deployed to Sulu in the southern Philippines as the new AFP chief vowed to "decimate" the Abu Sayyaf before he steps down in December. – Rappler.com