Nearly 40 members of a specialist British military unit arrived in the Philippines recently to work alongside the government and disaster-relief organizations as part of an annual training exercise in different parts of the world.
Focusing on Manila, members of 77 Brigade shared experiences with government departments, local authorities and humanitarian agencies in an integrated approach modeled on the scenario of a major earthquake.
Their mission during the two-week deployment, according to a statement, will be to look at examples of existing Philippine earthquake contingency response plans and, working with Philippine colleagues, offer suggestions that will help save lives by enhancing the country’s ability to respond to an earthquake in an urban setting.
The culminating activity was a Tabletop Exercise at the British Embassy in Manila where the 77 Brigade worked with Philippine government agencies and other organizations to explore and review existing plans and develop recommendations.
British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said, “The effects of Typhoon Yolanda were a real eye-opener, not just for the Philippine government but for many others across the world, including our government. We are very much aware of the importance of proper planning in mitigating the worst effects of natural disasters. Thousands of lives can be saved by effective preparation and coordination in advance of and in the aftermath of disasters. Exercise Civil Bridge is Great Britain’s continuing commitment to working together on disaster risk management, learning and sharing with each other.”
Undersecretary Alexander Pama, executive director of the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Civil Defense administrator welcomed Exercise Civil Bridge as another means to share the Philippines’ best practices in disaster risk reduction and management.
“With the recent turn of events in the country and the region, we really need to step up our efforts to make the Philippines better prepared for earthquakes and other emergencies. We are constantly improving our work and it is our pleasure to share our experiences and lessons learned with the global community of nations. The visit of the officers of the specialist brigade of the British Armed Forces for knowledge-sharing on disaster preparedness is proof of the appreciation of the international community of the importance of building resilience through cooperation,” Pama said.
Exercise commander, Lt. Col. Jem Blades Royal Engineers, said, “It’s great to be here, working with the Philippine Government and, in particular, the [NDRRMC] regarding earthquake mitigation measures in Manila.”
“It’s an excellent opportunity for the British Armed Forces to work closely with a broad spectrum of experts from government departments, non-government organizations and local authorities, as well as the Filipino Armed Forces. Our teams include individuals who bring specialist knowledge of earthquakes, humanitarian relief and disaster recovery, and we hope to share our experiences, as well as learn from others,” he added.
Blades said, “What we learn here in Manila will also enable us to work more effectively with others in different parts of the world.”
77 Brigade draws upon a wealth of civilian and military skills from both Regular and Reservist members from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who provide expertise ranging from civil engineering and policing to strategic communications.