Tuesday, February 28, 2006

US allots $4M for continuous operations in Leyte

By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga — The US military is spending some $4 million for its continuing operations in Saint Bernard town in Southern Leyte as they will stay in the area to help resettle families displaced by mudslides.

In an interview with The Star, US military spokesman Marine Capt. Burrel Parmer said the US military is not yet abandoning its work in Barangay Guinsaugon after rescue and recovery operations have ceased.

"A transition team composed of US military personnel will remain there to help the Philippine government, the Red Cross, and other agencies relocate families now housed in three public school buildings," he said.

According to Parmer, the goal of the US transition team is the resettlement of families now staying in public school buildings.

"Classes remain suspended there because the classrooms are being used by the evacuees. The governor is looking for a relocation site for them," he added.

Parmer said, however, that other US personnel who were directly involved in rescue and recovery operations left the area yesterday, although the USS Harper and USS Essex remained docked off the coast of Southern Leyte as of yesterday.

Since Feb. 18, the US military had been involved in disaster operations in Guinsaugon, with some 300 to 600 US military personnel directly involved in "ground operations."

Parmer said the US government sent some $4 million to the military soon after the disaster in Southern Leyte. Part of the funds were used for supplies needed at the site, including food, bottled water, medicines, blankets, body bags, and other items.

The $4 million, Parmer explained, was apart from the $245,000 allocated by the US military for various civic, medical, dental and veterinary projects lined up in Jolo, Sulu where the Balikatan exercises are being held until March 5.

The $4 million was allocated for the entire duration of US military assistance operations in Guinsaugon.

Earlier, Parmer said the US military will continue its operations in the disaster area "for as long as the Philippine government wants us to."

He said US soldiers recovered "less than 20 bodies" at the mudslide area but rescued nine Taiwanese rescue volunteers and evacuated some 152 others during heavy rains that threatened to trigger another mudslide during the search and rescue operations.

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