US to train local responders to WMD attacks

US to train local responders to WMD attacks

/ 05:40 AM April 29, 2024

US to train local responders to WMD attacks

EXPERTISE Robert Pope (center), director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Department of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a unit of the US Department of Defense, is joined by his staff at a media panel discussion in Arlington, Virginia, on April 23, as they explain their training program to boost the Philippines’ capacity to respond to threats of weapons of mass destruction. PHOTO FROM DTRA FACEBOOK PAGE

WASHINGTON DC — Experts from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a unit of the US Department of Defense, will train some local responders in Visayas and Mindanao in the coming months to build up their capacity to respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in case of conflict.

Lt. Col. Silvino Silvino, DTRA’s Indopacom Operations division chief for building partner capacity, said the new equipment training and medical management course in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro would synchronize the response of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Department of Health (DOH) to respond in case of mass casualty events involving chemical or biological attacks. A similar training previously led by DTRA was held at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.


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“These folks are primarily for response, and they need to work hand in hand together. One cannot do it without the other and so it’s a great fit for them for both to work together,” he told journalists participating in a reporting tour hosted by the US Embassy in Manila.

Representatives from the DOH in Manila would also join the training “to know the policies and they will have a better understanding of how to approach a response in the event that it occurs,” he said.

“Of course, we don’t expect it to occur, but we are going to be ready for it and that’s why we have to make sure that all personnel involved are trained,” Silvino noted.

READ: AFP developing ‘new doctrines’ vs weapons of mass destruction — exec

Medical care for victims

Robert Pope, director of the DTRA’s cooperative threat reduction department, said the training was a crucial capability because decontamination is an important process before victims could get medical care.

“If terrorists were ever to use a chemical weapon at a sporting facility or if you have a chemical accident, …you have to get that material off of these civilian victims before they can then be transported to the hospital,” he pointed out.


The upcoming training is one of the many ways the DTRA has strengthened the Philippines’ capacity to prevent and deter the proliferation of WMDs and other emerging threats.

The DTRA has provided crucial support for the construction of the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) in Manila and the regional coordination centers in Palawan and Cebu. The NCWC, instituted in accordance with Executive Order No. 57 issued in 2011, is envisioned as the national maritime point of contact for maritime security coordination.

The DTRA installed equipment, radars and cameras to enhance surveillance capabilities to detect, identify and track vessels, as well as provided extensive technical and operational training for systems and equipment to NCWC personnel. Maritime law enforcement is one of focus areas of the DTRA for its proliferation prevention program to deter WMD threats.

Early this month, President Marcos ordered the renaming and reorganizing of the NCWC as the National Maritime Council as part of efforts to boost the country’s maritime security amid China’s increasing aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

Biological weapons

“We’re very, very encouraged that President Marcos just reissued and updated the order, which shows that investment in how it’s a priority within the country,” said Cmdr. Bryan Kroncke, DTRA’s international project officer at the proliferation prevention program division.

In February, the DTRA announced the construction of the National Virtual Training Center in Silang, Cavite, to improve the safety and security of public and veterinary health facilities.

The facility is expected to increase the capacity and capability of training across multiple disciplines of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security and counter-WMD missions.

Pope said part of their programs in the Philippines included the provision of capacity to detect and interdict “high threat pathogens,” including those that could be turned into weapons-grade materials.

“It can be a biological threat from a biological weapon, from an accidental leak of a pathogen out of a laboratory, or from a natural outbreak like we’ve all experienced with Covid. We work in that biological space to try to reduce those threats, regardless of whether it’s a deliberate use of biological weapons or something that’s happening in our natural environment,” he said.

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“We want to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and any related systems and materials. When we can’t outright eliminate the thing that is threatening, we work with our partner nations to consolidate and secure that material, whether it’s chemicals that need to be used in industry or pathogens that need to be used in health research. We work together to make sure that we’ve got the right security around that so that they can’t be used by bad actors,” he added.


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