• AFP now equipped vs chemical attacks

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    THE US government on Thursday handed over to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets Kits and Outfits (DRSKO) package, which is expected to raise the AFP’s capabilities to conduct site assessment and mitigate risks and gather intelligence on chemical agents, biological agents or other potential chemical hazards.

    Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, AFP deputy chief of staff, received the 501 pieces of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Equipment from the US’Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in a simple ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon
    City (Metro Manila).

    The DRSKO is a portable collection of CBRN protective gear and detection equipment used to support dismounted reconnaissance, surveillance and CBRN site assessment missions.

    Designed to equip a team of 27 personnel, the equipment includes individual personal protective equipment (like several pieces of protective suits, gloves and boots), self-contained breathing apparatus, decontamination items (like flexible waste water tank and various types of water hoses), consumable support items, reusable support items (like toolbox and bolt cutter), technical/training reference materials, power supply facilities, team communications items and other materials.

    According to Fallorina, the equipment will be used by the CBRN Platoon, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion of the Philippine Army’s Support Command for their ongoing training at Fort Bonifacio in Makati City (Metro Manila) and future deployment that will require such capabilities.

    Around 35 members of the CBRN platoon are undergoing refresher to ensure that they have retained their knowledge of previous trainings they received in Aberdeen, Maryland, with the United States Armed Forces last month.

    The US government is looking forward to the AFP’s successful adoption of the equipment and corresponding training in order to meet security requirements of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015.

    Fallorina said other major services of the AFP will also have similar CBRN platoon until the military has substantial number of personnel qualified for the job.

    When asked if the threat of chemical, biological and medical (CBM) is a growing concern in the country, the AFP official said, “We really can’t tell about the future but if we look back in the history, we have a lot of major disasters, we have in India and other countries.”

    “But it’s always better to be prepared rather than be sorry when the time comes and with the competing priorities in terms of capability development … we really are late in developing this capability. But thanks to our counterparts, we are given some support and we’re able to start the capability development this specific, basically a capability gap because we don’t have that yet,” Fallorina added.

    Col. Gerry Amante, commander of the Army munitions control center, said that as soon as the CBRN platoon completed its proficiency training, it is ready to respond to any incident whether it be nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological.

    He explained that while the military is yet to receive information that local terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf Group have the capability to launch chemical attacks, the AFP is preparing for any eventuality.

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