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US, Japanese naval ships to visit PH for humanitarian mission

/ 09:34 PM June 15, 2012

USNS Mercy. AFP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The United States’ biggest naval hospital ship and a Japanese naval ship will arrive over the weekend for a multinational humanitarian assistance mission in Samar province.

The USNS Mercy, the US Navy’s premier hospital ship, is expected in Calbayog City on Sunday, the eve of the start of the Philippine leg of the Pacific Partnership 2012.

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The Japanese naval landing ship Oosumi will arrive a day after in Calbagyog City to support the USNS Mercy in sealift and airlift operations.

The Pacific Partnership 2012 is the largest annual joint humanitarian and civic action mission in the Asia-Pacific region that brings together US military personnel, host and partner nations, non-government organizations and international agencies.

The mission also stops in Indonesia (North Sulawesi), Cambodia (Sihanoukville) and Vietnam (Vinh).

Bearing the Red Cross symbol, the USNS Mercy will provide medical, veterinary and dental services to hundreds of residents in Samar.

The 1,000 bed capacity hospital ship will also ferry medical and engineering personnel from other nations and non-government organizations participating in the Pacific Partnership 2012.

The USNS Mercy is capable of rapid and mobile acute medical and surgical procedures and can accommodate as many as 200 patients a day.

Japan has also sent 24 medical personnel who will fly-in aboard a C1 Japanese aircraft and land in Manila tomorrow.

They will join the main medical party aboard the USNS Mercy on June 18.

General Shigeru Iwasaki, Chief of Joint Staff of the Japan’s Self Defense Forces, is expected on June 21.

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“He (Iwasaki) is planning to visit the activity in Samar (province) under the Pacific Partnership,” AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa said earlier this week. “Since the Japanese armed forces is involved (in the Pacific Partnership), maybe he took the opportunity to visit their troops in the area.”

Iwasaki’s visit follows the visit of the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey last June 3 and 4.

The rare visits by the US and Japanese military chiefs came amid the Philippines’ ongoing territorial dispute with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The US Pacific Fleet, through the Pacific Partnership, also seeks to improve the interoperability of armed forces in the region in responding to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.

This year, the Pacific Partnership civic projects will be undertaken in Samar province, one of the country’s poorest provinces.

The civic assistance programs will be undertaken in Catbalogan City, Calbayog City and the towns of Silanga, Gandara, Carayman, Veriato, Malaga and San Isidro.

Seminars will also be given in selected areas to prepare local residents against calamities.

Philippine Army soldiers and their American counterparts have been working together to construct and renovate three schools and a health center in Samar.

They are constructing a two-classroom school building in Palanit, San Isidro in Northern Samar; renovating a health center in Bugtong, Tinambacan District in Western Samar; renovating the San Jorge Elementary School in San Jorge, Samar; and reconstructing the Tambongan Elementary School in Gandara District, Western Samar.

The Pacific Partnership 2012 will run until June 30.

Other nations participating in this year’s Pacific Partnership include Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, Chile, Peru and the Netherlands.

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TAGS: Diplomacy, Foreign affairs, Government, humanitarian mission, naval, US, USNS Mercy
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